Chicken pox is a contagious infection caused by the virus called varicella. In most of the cases chicken pox is a benign infection with no complications. You can not treat chicken pox so the remedies that are prescribed usually ease the symptoms. Even though it?s often seen in childhood, chicken pox can affect adults too. For them the chances of complications grow.
Chicken pox may have unwanted effects if the patient is a pregnant woman. If the future mother is infected during its pregnancy complications may appear.
For pregnant women who have already had chicken pox infection there is no reason to alarm. Their body is immune to the virus because during the infection it has produced antibodies. These antibodies are transferred to the infant through the placenta so the risk of developing chicken pox is low.
At their first pregnancy control women must be tested to see if the antibodies for chicken pox exist.
About one in a thousand women are prone to develop chicken pox during their pregnancy. This small percentage is the cause of a previous infection with varicella, or a working immune system, but can also prove us that there is a risk of developing chicken pox during pregnancy.
For the pregnant women that develop chicken pox the chances of complications are real high. These women are prone to pneumonia, conjunctivitis, meningitis and even encephalitis or heart diseases.
Infants are more affected because of chicken pox during pregnancy. They may develop malformations especially when the infection is acquired in the first three months of pregnancy. The congenital varicella syndrome is responsible for malformations at birth. These defects consist of scars on the skin, eye problems, small limbs, a smaller head or even mental retardation.
If chicken pox develops in the last days of pregnancy or a few days after birth, the child is prone to disseminated varicella infection. One out of four children die if this infection occurs. Disseminated varicella infection occurs if the antibodies from their mother are not transferred to their bodies.
For treating chicken pox infections doctors recommend acyclovir. This medicine is safe in pregnancy. For women that have already developed varicella pneumonia hospitalization is necessary and in these cases a higher dose of acyclovir is prescribed.
For pregnant women, that are not immune to chicken pox varicella-zoster immunoglobulin (VZIG) is recommended in order to prevent the infection.
Children, whose mothers develop varicella right before giving birth, should be also treated with varicella-zoster immunoglobulin (VZIG). If they acquire the virus in two weeks after birth they should be treated with IV acyclovir.