I am pregnant – should I worry about chicken pox?


Claire: “Chicken pox in pregnancy is actually very rare, but if you do get chicken pox when you're pregnant, it's important you're aware that the complication rate for you and the baby is very low.


About three in 1,000 women do get chicken pox when they're pregnant, but most of those women recover without any ill effects.


90% of women in this country are actually immune to chicken pox, because they've had it when they were a child. If you're pregnant and you think you've got chicken pox, even if you have no symptoms, you must go and see your GP or contact your midwife.


Depending on the stage of your pregnancy, occasionally there can be risks to either you or the baby. The later you get the chicken pox, then you are at risk of pneumonia, which is a chest infection. If you're pregnant and you have chicken pox and you're a smoker, then your risk of getting pneumonia is slightly higher.


If you get chicken pox and you're less than 28 weeks pregnant, your baby could get foetal varicella syndrome. If you get chicken pox when you're between 28 and 36 weeks pregnant, then the chances are that there will be no ill effects to the baby at that time.


However, it's important that you're aware that the virus can reactivate in the first few years of your child's life, and they can get something called shingles.


After 36 weeks of pregnancy, your child could be born with chicken pox, if you get chicken pox at that time. If you get chicken pox either seven days before or seven days after you deliver, your newborn baby could get chicken pox, which, unfortunately, can be more serious, and in some rare cases can be fatal.


If you are pregnant and you don't know whether you've had chicken pox or you're worried you're not immune, your GP can offer you a blood test to check whether you have the antibodies against the disease, and therefore whether you're immune or not.”