I’m in my tenth week of pregnancy and have contracted chicken pox. Will the chicken pox harm my baby in any way or cause serious pregnancy complications?
Chicken pox infection could affect the pregnant woman more seriously than the non-pregnant woman. There is a higher chance of lung infection and admission to hospital from chicken pox infection during pregnancy.
If chicken pox infection occurs during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, there is a two per cent risk of congenital varicella syndrome with abnormalities to the skin (scarring), eye abnormalities (including cataracts, inflammation of the eye), brain abnormalities (including fluid retention within the brain, and small brain), limb abnormalities, and growth restriction. An ultrasound examination may only detect some, but not all, of the abnormalities.
Amniocentesis may be performed to check if the foetus has evidence of chicken pox infection. If amniocentesis shows that the foetus has chicken pox infection and there are ultrasound abnormalities suggestive of congenital varicella syndrome, there is a very high probability of congenital varicella syndrome. If both amniocentesis and the ultrasound scan examination at 20 weeks are normal, then the probability is very small. If only one of the two tests are abnormal, then it becomes more difficult to judge.
After all, the foetus could have a chicken pox infection and yet does not suffer from any of the adverse effects of congenital varicella syndrome. The majority of foetuses in such cases are not affected though.
Question answered by:
Dr Tony Tan
Specialist in Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Consultant
Raffles Women’s Centre