Shingles is a painful, blistering rash. It is caused by the reactivation of infection with the varicella zoster virus VZV , the virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles can show up at any time but it’s alarming when it shows up during pregnancy. However this occurrence is rare. For most women who develop this rash during pregnancy, the outlook is good.
What are the symptoms of shingles during pregnancy ?
After getting chickenpox especially during childhood, the virus remains dormant in certain nerves. The immune system usually keeps the virus in check . However, anything such as immunosuppressive drugs, age related stress and certain illness that affects the immune system’s ability to hold the virus can reactivate the virus and cause shingles.
It may present early symptoms such as
- burning or shooting pain
- tingling or itching generally on one side of the body or face
Symptoms may be accompanied by
- difficulty urinating
The tingling and itching are followed by a rash which begins with reddish bumps , usually on the trunk. The bumps become fluid filled blisters which usually crust over and fall after 7 to 10 days. Skin color at the site of the rash may be different even if rash goes away. Nerve pain may also persist at the site of the rash. The pain usually goes away after 4 months of the site of the rash.
Shingles treatment during pregnancy
Treatment is aimed at reducing the severity and lessening the nerve pain that may persist. Antiviral drugs such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valacyclovir (Valtrex) are used for treatment. These drugs should be safe during pregnancy.
If you think you have shingles, you have to see your doctor right away. This is because you need to take one of these medications within a few days of getting shingles for best outcome. Your doctor may also prescribe some over the counter medications as well as self measures to help with symptoms.
How to reduce your risk for shingles
The varicella-zoster virus is very contagious. If you’ve not had chickenpox , it is important to avoid coming into contact with someone who has the infection especially during pregnancy.
Having chicken pox during pregnancy can result in chickenpox or birth defect in the unborn child. However most experts believe that shingles poses no harm to the unborn child .
There is a vaccine known as Zostervax which can help prevent shingles. However you need to get this vaccine before you get pregnant. It is recommended that you wait at least 3 months after getting the vaccine before attempting to get pregnant.
If you’ve already had chickenpox, you cannot get shingles from someone with chickenpox or shingles.
Shingles and pregnancy. Medicine.net. http://www.medicinenet.com/shingles_and_pregnancy/article.htm. Accessed January 13, 2016
I’m pregnant and have shingles. Will it harm my baby. Babycenter. http://www.babycentre.co.uk/x552741/im-pregnant-and-i-have-shingles-will-this-harm-my-baby. Accessed January 13, 2016