Shingles is caused by the same virus which causes chicken pox. Having chicken pox as a child does not ensure you a shingles-free pregnancy. This painful blistering disease can happen to any pregnant woman. A study conducted by Cannon & Fawk (2017) reveals that one out of five women suffers from shingles.
Shingles have the tendency to show up during any point of the pregnancy. You just need to watch out for the symptoms of this disease. Consult your doctor as soon as you observe any indication of the following symptoms.
Symptoms and Treatment for Shingles or Chicken Pox During Pregnancy
Symptoms of Shingles:
Once you are affected with chicken pox in your childhood the virus remains dormant in your body. It can get triggered during any major changes. Prolonged illness or pregnancy can bring about the desired changes. It makes the body vulnerable to shingles. The common symptoms of shingles include:
- Burning and shooting pain on the skin: It is a very common symptom of shingles. It will usually start with this. So, whenever you get burning sensation immediately contact your doctor.
- Fever and Chills: For some people the pain becomes severe. It can also result in fever. This is a very prominent sign that the virus is alive. You can also feel occasional chills during this time.
- Nausea: Though during pregnancy nausea can happen due to many reasons, the virus will make you feel weak and nauseous.
- Diarrhea: Shingles are often accompanied by diarrhea. This is a normal reaction made by your body to get rid of the virus. Sometimes situation gets out of hand. Medical intervention is often advised.
- Problems during Urinating: The virus affects your urinary tract. That is the reason why it makes urinating quite challenging.
It will start with a tingling pain. This will lead to the formation of rash. Ideally this is the time you should consult your doctor. The rashes then make way for blisters. The blisters get filled with fluid. This is when the ailment has reached its peak. These blister, in the due time, crust over and eventually fall out. The entire tenure of this disease is about 10 days.
Sometimes even after the rashes heal, patches of dark spots remain on your skin. Sometimes they also cause certain amount of pain. However, the pain subsides within the first four months of the rashes.
Will it affect my baby?
If you had chickenpox before in your life, then your baby is safe. The immunity you have developed whilst suffering from chickenpox will protect your baby from the harmful effects of shingles.
You should remember that shingles are not contagious. That means, you cannot actually have shingles from someone else. The virus itself needs to be there in your body. However, you can actually pass the virus on.
The virus will be passed on to someone else’s body as chickenpox. That is why it is important that you keep your entire body covered. Now if you are not pregnant and yet have shingles, then do not go near any pregnant women.
You will not know whether or not she has immunity against chicken pox. So, you might contaminate her with a deadly virus during a delicate phase of her life. Whilst shingles are apparently harmless to an unborn baby, chicken pox can have fatal impact.
Treatment of Shingles:
The good news is that shingles do not stay for long. The bad news is that they are not treatable. Like any form of viral attack your body needs to withstand the impact of the disease for a while.
Still it is important that you talk to your physician about the problem. This will help you prepare your body to withstand the aftereffect of the ailment. There are few medications that you need to take in order to make sure that the harm is minimal.
Follow the dosage of the antiviral medicine your doctor prescribes. These drugs are safe during pregnancy. However, you should not skip or overdose yourself.
In addition to the medication there are few other things that you can do if you are suffering from shingles:
- Take cold compress and take cool baths to get relief from the burning pain. This will help your pain to subside.
- Cover your effected area with gauze. This will prevent the infection from spreading. Also it will allow you to heal.
- Always wear loose clothing to avoid any kind of discomfiture or bruising of the blisters.
- You can use calamine lotions to stop the itching sensation. Oatmeal baths are also very helpful in the cause. They will give you the much needed relief from the itching.
- There are also certain painkillers that you can use. Some painkillers are safe during pregnancy. However, before taking any over-the-counter drugs, you should make sure that your doctor is okay with that.
Read more: 21 Home Remedies for Chicken Pox in Kids
The virus causing the disease is highly contagious. So, if you did not have chickenpox as a child or before getting pregnant, then you should avoid exposure to any person having chickenpox.
Whilst shingles are harmless to an unborn child, chickenpox is not. A mother suffering from chickenpox, during pregnancy, can pass the virus to the fetus. However, some studies by George and Lahra (2015) suggest that shingles also have some kind of effect on the baby, though the risk seems to be pretty low, when compared to chickenpox.
If you did not have chickenpox you can always run a blood test to detect any trace of the virus in your body. There are certain vaccinations preventing the spread of the virus. For those women the risk and impact of shingles or chickenpox is much less.
The manufacturer of the vaccine suggests that one should at least wait for three months, after taking the vaccine, to decide on getting pregnant.
Considering the damage it can inflict on your skin, it will be unwise to keep the thing suppressed. The moment you feel that there is something wrong, you should report it to your doctor.