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

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • fever
  • chills
  • 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.


Content Sources
Shingles during pregnancy. WebMD. Accessed January 13, 2016

Shingles and pregnancy. Accessed January 13, 2016

I’m pregnant and have shingles. Will it harm my baby. Babycenter. Accessed January 13, 2016

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