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Shingles Pregnancy

Shingles During Pregnancy: A Comprehensive Guide


Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person has chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the body’s nerve cells. Years later, the virus can reactivate and cause shingles.

Shingles can occur at any age, but it is most common in people over 50. Pregnant women are at an increased risk of developing shingles, and the infection can be more severe in pregnant women than in non-pregnant women.

Symptoms of Shingles During Pregnancy

The symptoms of shingles during pregnancy are similar to the symptoms of shingles in non-pregnant women. They include:

  • A painful rash that develops on one side of the body, usually on the trunk or face
  • Blisters that form on the rash
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches

Complications of Shingles During Pregnancy

Shingles can lead to a number of complications during pregnancy, including:

  • Preterm birth: Shingles can increase the risk of preterm birth, which is the birth of a baby before 37 weeks of gestation.
  • Low birth weight: Shingles can also increase the risk of low birth weight, which is the birth of a baby who weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
  • Congenital varicella syndrome: If a pregnant woman develops shingles within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, her baby is at risk of developing congenital varicella syndrome (CVS). CVS is a rare but serious condition that can cause birth defects, including:
    • Skin scarring
    • Eye problems
    • Neurological problems
    • Intellectual disability

Treatment of Shingles During Pregnancy

There is no cure for shingles, but treatment can help to relieve the symptoms and prevent complications. Treatment options for shingles during pregnancy include:

  • Antiviral medications: Antiviral medications can help to shorten the duration of the rash and reduce the severity of the symptoms. Acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir are the antiviral medications that are most commonly used to treat shingles during pregnancy.
  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help to relieve the pain of shingles.
  • Cool compresses: Cool compresses can help to soothe the itching and burning of shingles.
  • Calamine lotion: Calamine lotion can help to dry out the rash and reduce itching.

Prevention of Shingles During Pregnancy

The best way to prevent shingles during pregnancy is to get vaccinated against the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). The VZV vaccine is safe and effective for pregnant women. It is recommended that all pregnant women get vaccinated against VZV, regardless of their age or previous history of chickenpox.

If you are pregnant and have not been vaccinated against VZV, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated.

Outlook for Shingles During Pregnancy

The outlook for shingles during pregnancy is generally good. Most pregnant women who develop shingles will recover fully without any complications. However, there is a small risk of developing serious complications, such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and congenital varicella syndrome.

If you are pregnant and develop shingles, it is important to see your doctor right away. Early treatment can help to reduce the risk of complications.

Additional Information

Here are some additional resources that you may find helpful:

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