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Pregnancy Fifth Disease

Fifth Disease in Pregnancy: A Comprehensive Guide


Fifth disease, also known as erythema infectiosum, is a common childhood illness caused by the parvovirus B19. While it is typically a mild illness in children, it can pose serious risks to pregnant women and their unborn babies. This article provides a comprehensive overview of fifth disease in pregnancy, including its symptoms, risks, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Symptoms of Fifth Disease in Pregnancy

Most pregnant women with fifth disease experience mild or no symptoms. However, some may develop the following:

  • Rash: A characteristic red, lacy rash that starts on the face and spreads to the trunk and limbs.
  • Fever: Low-grade fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain

Risks of Fifth Disease in Pregnancy

Fifth disease can pose significant risks to pregnant women and their unborn babies, particularly during the first trimester. The virus can cross the placenta and infect the fetus, leading to:

  • Fetal anemia: The virus can destroy red blood cells in the fetus, leading to anemia. Severe anemia can cause heart failure and other life-threatening complications.
  • Hydrops fetalis: A condition characterized by excessive fluid accumulation in the fetus’s body.
  • Miscarriage: In severe cases, fifth disease can lead to miscarriage.

Diagnosis of Fifth Disease in Pregnancy

Diagnosing fifth disease in pregnancy can be challenging as the symptoms are often mild or absent. However, healthcare providers may use the following tests:

  • Physical examination: The doctor will examine the pregnant woman for signs of the characteristic rash.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests can detect antibodies against the parvovirus B19, indicating current or past infection.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound can help assess the fetus for signs of anemia or hydrops fetalis.

Treatment of Fifth Disease in Pregnancy

There is no specific treatment for fifth disease in pregnancy. However, healthcare providers may recommend the following:

  • Rest: Getting plenty of rest can help the body fight the infection.
  • Fluids: Staying hydrated is important to prevent dehydration.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve fever and muscle aches.

Prevention of Fifth Disease in Pregnancy

Pregnant women can take the following steps to reduce their risk of fifth disease:

  • Avoid contact with infected individuals: Stay away from people who have fifth disease, especially children.
  • Wash hands frequently: Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after coming into contact with potentially infected surfaces.
  • Get vaccinated: A vaccine is available to prevent fifth disease, but it is not recommended for pregnant women.

Prognosis for Fifth Disease in Pregnancy

The prognosis for fifth disease in pregnancy depends on the severity of the infection and the gestational age at which it occurs. Most pregnant women recover fully without any complications. However, in severe cases, the infection can lead to fetal anemia, hydrops fetalis, or miscarriage.

Long-Term Effects of Fifth Disease in Pregnancy

Most babies who are infected with fifth disease in utero do not experience any long-term effects. However, in some cases, the infection can lead to:

  • Developmental delays
  • Learning disabilities
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision problems


Fifth disease in pregnancy is a serious condition that can pose significant risks to pregnant women and their unborn babies. Pregnant women should be aware of the symptoms and risks of fifth disease and take steps to prevent infection. Early diagnosis and treatment can help improve the prognosis for both the mother and the baby.

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