When pregnant women are exposed to chicken pox

My five-year-old daughter has the chicken pox and my wife, who is seven months pregnant, has never had them. What should we do if she contracts the chicken pox? Will it affect the baby? How will it affect my wife?

Many adults who never remember having chicken pox actually experienced mild cases as children and are immune as a result. Chicken pox is not a pleasant illness to have as an adult, especially when you are seven months pregnant. Besides the usual itchiness, your wife’s doctor will probably want to watch her for complications like pneumonia and low platelet count. Platelets are needed to help blood clot. Some pregnant women with chicken pox may deliver prematurely.

During the first three months of pregnancy, chicken pox could affect the baby and cause abnormalities of the eye, skin and brain. Mothers who have chicken pox close to the time of delivery risk transmitting the illness through the placenta to their babies. If a baby is born more than five days after the mother develops chicken pox, the baby will have some immunity and will likely develop only a mild case of chicken pox.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine that prevents chicken pox. It is recommended to be given at one year of age and is believed to protect children throughout their lives. Older children and adults who have never had chicken pox can also get this vaccine. It causes mild side effects in some children such as cold symptoms, low-grade fever and some spots that look like chicken pox. You should talk with your doctor about this vaccine.

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