Why do you really need a chicken pox vaccine in pregnancy? Here’s why you should do it, pregnant moms!
What you can read in this article?
- What is Chicken pox?
- Causes of Chicken pox and way of transmitting the virus infection
- 2 reasons why you should get the chicken pox vaccine before getting pregnant
What is Chicken pox?
Chicken pox or also known as “bulutong” in the Philippines is a highly contagious viral infection characterized by itchy blister-like lesions.
Chicken pox. | Image from iStock
It often lasts five to ten days but seldom occurs more than once in a person’s lifetime. However, it is still very contagious to individuals who have never had it or who have not been vaccinated against it.
In the mid-1990s, the vaccine was invented and made, decreasing the number of cases affected by the virus and deaths.
Causes of Chicken pox and way of transmitting the virus infection
This severely contagious infection is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and can be transmitted in different ways. One of many people can get infected when an infected person (even a child) sneezes or coughs. Once the air gets infected, people who inhaled the airdrops get also get the virus.
Another way to get infected is by direct contact in which saliva, mucus, or the fluid inside the blisters gets passed to another person.
An infected person (which is usually a child) is contagious depending on when did the symptoms of chicken pox appeared; mostly it is two days prior to the appearance of rashes up until the blisters develop crusts.
Who are the people at risk of getting infected?
Chicken pox or bulutong tubig commonly appears on children at a young age that it is almost considered as childhood’s rite of passage.
However, despite children having more cases of chicken pox, other people could still get infected. Some of the factors that increase your risks are if you are:
- Someone who has never contracted the virus before
- A newborn or an infant whose mother was never vaccinated with chicken pox vaccine or never had chicken pox
- Someone who has not been vaccinated to be protected from chicken pox
- A person with a low ability to fight infection and sickness or has a weak immune system such as an old person or pregnant woman.
- Undergoing medication like chemotherapy for diseases such as cancer, HIV, or AIDS weakens your immune system
- Someone whose taking steroids and other medication for certain conditions and diseases such as asthma
Whereas uncommon, it is not unheard and it is still much possible for a person who once got infected by chicken pox to get it again but only this time, the symptoms are much milder in comparison to the first time you got infected and also to the people who are not yet vaccinated.
They might have rashes but the blisters are not severe, have felt sickness but on a shorter period and they might also not experience other symptoms such as fever.
Symptoms of Chicken pox
The most obvious symptoms of chicken pox are the rashes that soon turn into blisters then scabs. These are red and itchy and usually start at the back, abdomen, and face then spreads all over the body and into different parts even in the scalp, genitals, mouth, and limbs.
Symptoms of chicken pox. | Image from iStock
The rashes in chicken pox have three stages, these are:
- The rashes start to have raised bumps(papules) and are pink or red in color. These rashes might only look like pimples or insect bites.
- After two or three days the rashes will come out in groups and will look like blisters(vesicles) that have fluids.
- Lastly, when the flimsy walls in the blisters break, the rashes develop a crust then soon becomes dry and become scabs.
Among all the other symptoms of chicken pox, rashes cause a great disturbance as they are uncomfortable and itchy. Moreover, the three stages of rashes which are bumps, blisters, and scabs can be experienced simultaneously in the body.
Along or before the rashes start, chicken pox has other symptoms which will last for a few day, these are:
- Fever of 38.3 to 38.8 C
- Sore throat
- Stomach ache
- Loss of appetite
- Malaise (the feeling of being unwell)
Chicken pox in Pregnancy
Chicken pox in pregnancy. | Larawan mula sa iStock
Does being infected by chicken pox during your pregnancy affect you or your child? The answer, yes, definitely. Chicken pox increases the chance of both mother and child having complications that can be serious and even life-threatening.
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2 reasons why you should get the chicken pox vaccine before getting pregnant
Here are the 2 reasons why you should get the chicken pox vaccine after planning to get pregnant.
Multiple birth defects on the baby
Once you get chicken pox during your first 20 weeks of pregnancy, the risk of your baby getting a rare group of serious birth defects increases. These defects are called congenital varicella syndrome and it includes:
- Defects in the brain, eyes, arms, and legs of the baby
- Defects in bones and muscles
- Small head size of the baby
- Scars on the skin upon birth
- Low birth weight of the baby and problem in its size
- Gastrointestinal complications
- Might develop seizures
The baby could get some complications in their central nervous system if you manage to get infected in your third trimester while the chances of birth defects are lower if you get infected after the 20 weeks of pregnancy instead of getting it in the first 20 weeks.
In getting infected after the first 20 weeks of your pregnancy, the baby could have shingles in his or her 1st until 2nd year of life. Shingles can be caught by the same virus caused by chicken pox.
Additionally, if you get infected 2 weeks before your delivery or after giving birth, there’s a huge possibility that you will pass the virus to your baby through the symptoms for them would be mild.
Though treatment is more available nowadays do babies can get treated, the life-threatening infection called neonatal varicella which is a serious infection can be caught by your baby if you get infected by chicken pox before or just after giving birth. If your baby is born preterm, it increases the risks of other complications from the virus.
Reasons why you should get the chicken pox vaccine before getting pregnant. | Image from iStock
Life-threatening effects on a pregnant woman
Getting infected by the chicken pox virus during your pregnancy causes some complications that could be life-threatening. It increases your risk of getting pneumonia which is a lung infection.
Pneumonia could be very dangerous to both mother and child especially if not cured immediately. It’s symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, chest pain when breathing or coughing, and shortness of breath.
Preventing chicken pox in pregnancy
The best way to prevent getting infected by the virus is getting vaccinated to protect you from the virus however it is not advisable and safe to take during your pregnancy. A pregnant woman should not come in contact with a chicken pox especially if they are not vaccinated.
For women who are not vaccinated yet, it is advisable to talk to your doctor and take the vaccine before trying to conceive to avoid any complications.
It is also said that you have to wait at least a month or three after getting the second and last dose of your vaccine before getting pregnant.
If you are not sure if you’ve already taken a vaccine or not, ask your health care provider for a blood test as it will show your immunity to the virus.
Remember that if you are already pregnant, do not get vaccinated until you have already given birth and in the meantime just stay away from people who have chicken pox or shingles.
If you’ve come in contact with a person who has chicken pox and you are not vaccinated, tell your doctor immediately so as they can give you chicken pox antibodies that will fight the infection.
Additionally, your doctor may also recommend and give you an antiviral medicine such as valacyclovir or acyclovir as these are medicines safe to use during pregnancy to treat infections.
Before conceiving a baby, make sure that you are ready and healthy to prevent any serious complications. Before planning to have a baby, make sure that you get vaccinated for chicken pox and other vaccines to ensure your and your baby’s health.
MarchOfDimes, NHS, StanfordChildrens
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