Congratulations on being pregnant!
While this is a time to pamper yourself as a to-be-mom, it is also important to take extreme care of yourself and your newborn’s health.
One such condition that can happen while you are pregnant is shingles, also known as Herpes Zoster. It is a viral infection of the skin. It is associated with a painful rash and blisters on one side of the body or face, around a particular nerve.
Instead of worrying too much about it while you are pregnant, you need to know the facts about shingles to ensure you get the required treatment in time.
What Is Shingles?
Shingles is caused by the virus Varicella Zoster. This is the same virus that causes chicken pox.
- After an episode of chicken pox, the virus Varicella Zoster resides dormant in your nervous system forever. In some cases it breaks out when your immunity goes low and that causes shingles.
- If you have not had chicken pox in your childhood, there is no chance that you would get shingles.
- If you have had chicken pox in your childhood, you need to take precautions based on your doctor’s advice to avoid shingles, as pregnant women are more prone to it.
[ Read: Skin Allergy During Pregnancy ]
What Causes Shingles During Pregnancy?
The reasons for Varicella Zoster being dormant in one’s body without being completely eliminated and its re-activation after several years are not known yet. This re-activation when the immune system is impaired happens most likely under the following circumstances:
- Aging (not a case for pregnancy)
- Immunosuppressive therapy, like chemotherapy
Symptoms Of Shingles During Pregnancy:
Shingles are commonly characterized by the following symptoms:
[ Read: Fever During Pregnancy ]
- Burning pain in the affected area
- Hyperesthesia (oversensitivity of skin)
- Stinging, tingling
- Appearance of skin rash
- Rash turning into blisters
The early symptoms which are not specific to shingles are tough to be diagnosed. The rash and blisters, however, appear only on one side of the body or face in a pattern that looks like a band or belt. The blisters dry up and fall out eventually. An entire episode of shingles could last for 2 to 4 weeks.
[ Read: Rashes During Pregnancy ]
There could be more symptoms and health conditions as below:
- Post herpetic Neuralgia: Long lasting pains in the affected area, occurs after a shingles episode
- Opthalmicus: Affecting the eye
- Complications to nervous system at various levels: Very rare occurrence
While being aware of this condition is important, do note that occurrence of shingles is very rare. Only 10% of those infected get Opthalmicus and other complications are even rare.
Treatment And Prevention For Shingles::
The vaccine Zostavax helps in reducing the risk of shingles to 50%. This vaccination is commonly for adults above 65 years. However, if you have a personal history of chicken pox and also a family history of shingles, this vaccination might be advised prior to pregnancy. You need to ensure at least 3 months of gap after this vaccination before you get pregnant.
In case you are infected with shingles, appropriate and timely treatment can reduce complications, also severity and duration of pain can be limited.
You would be recommended the following for treatment of shingles in pregnancy:
- Antivirals (that are safe in pregnancy, best when started within 72 hours of the appearance of rash)
- Pain killers
- To sooth from rash and blisters:
- Lotions containing calamine
- Loose clothing
- Cold compresses
[ Read: Infection During Pregnancy ]
Is Shingles Contagious?
You cannot get shingles from someone who has it. But if you are going through an episode of shingles, you need to take care that you are not around:
- Aged people
- Other pregnant woman
Direct contact with the blisters on your body might infect a person who has no immunity to Varicella Zoster virus. This could lead to chicken pox in that person.
- If you are suffering from shingles in pregnancy, please remember, it would not harm your unborn baby.
- As you have already been carrying this virus Varicella Zoster and have had immunity to the virus which is passed on to your baby.
- If you have a history of chicken pox, you should not get annoyed and worry unnecessarily, whether you get shingles or not.
Being relaxed, positive and happy is more important and keeps you healthy and strong. We wish you all the very best!
Do share your experiences with other expectant mommies in the comment section below.
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