Expecting mothers may wonder how shingles and pregnancy interact together. Can the virus pose a danger to their baby? Are the drugs used in treating shingles safe to use when pregnant? Since infections can be passed along from mother to child, these are important questions to ask.
Shingles and chickenpox are caused by the same virus, the varicella-zoster virus, or VZV. It can pose a risk to your unborn child if you develop shingles or chickenpox before you hit the 30-week mark in your pregnancy. If you do, it is possible your baby may have a birth defect. It is very rare for this to happen, however. More of a risk comes from developing chickenpox than shingles, and since most pregnant adults will have already had chickenpox, there is very little risk involved.
It is possible to have an outbreak of shingles while you are pregnant, but it doesn't happen very often. Treatment is the same as treating shingles in women who are not pregnant. The main antiviral medications are all safe for use while pregnant. The main pain medications used with shingles outbreaks, however, are not safe-pregnant women should not take aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medication once they reach the third trimester.
If you do develop chickenpox late in your pregnancy, it is possible for your baby to be infected with chickenpox. If you develop the illness more than five days before you give birth, you may transfer the disease to your child. However, since your body will have had time to develop antibodies to battle chickenpox, you will also pass these antibodies to your baby. This will help their undeveloped immune system battle the chickenpox.
The problem comes from developing chickenpox right before giving birth. Since your body won't have developed the antibodies, your newborn will be in danger. However, there are medications that can help protect him or her from the illness.