Chicken Pox and Getting Pregnant

Trying to Conceive and Chickenpox

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada recently released guidelines advising women who are trying to conceive to make sure that they’re immune to chickenpox first. Chicken pox, which causes itchiness, rash, and pockmarks, is seldom serious for children. For adults on the other hand, especially those who are pregnant, it can be quite serious.

Most North American women are immune to chickenpox. If you’ve ever had chickenpox, or if you’ve recently received the vaccine against it, you are immune. If you know that you haven’t had chicken pox and that you haven’t gotten the vaccine, see your doctor. If you received the vaccine as a kid, ask your doctor if getting a booster shot is in order.

Women who are already pregnant cannot receive the vaccine. It’s important to get vaccinated before you become pregnant if possible. The CDC recommends that you wait at least a month after getting the vaccine to try and get pregnant. The only real defense against chickenpox after you become pregnant is to avoid exposure. Unfortunately, it is easier said than done. Most people don’t realize they have chickenpox until after they’ve contracted it. Ideally, you should vaccinate four weeks before you start trying to get pregnant.

Getting Chicken Pox While Pregnant

Some of the effects of chickenpox during pregnancy include:

  • Risk of death (negligible in children, higher in adults, especially women in their third trimester)
  • Risk of a pneumonitis
  • Cross-placenta infection of your unborn baby
  • A wide range of birth defects, especially if the mother contracts chickenpox during the first half of her pregnancy

If you contract chicken pox during your first two trimesters, your baby has a 1-2% chance of being born with congenital varicella syndrome. This syndrome can cause:

  • Scars and thickened skin mainly on arms and legs
  • Problems with muscles and bones
  • Malformed arms or legs
  • Blindness or cataracts
  • Low birth weight
  • Seizures
  • Learning disabilities
  • Microcephaly

Your provider can do an ultrasound to check for some birth defects caused by chickenpox.

Know Your Chicken Pox Status Before Trying to Conceive

If you are trying to conceive and are not sure whether you are immune to chickenpox contact your doctor. Schedule your chickenpox vaccination at least a month before planning to get pregnant. The vaccination is readily available and most health insurance plans cover the cost. Even if you lack medical insurance, the vaccine typically costs less than $150.

We all want to have a baby. Still, we want to make sure that when we do become pregnant that our pregnancies and our babies are healthy. Making sure you’re immune to chickenpox is a small but important step before you try to get pregnant.