Chickenpox is, as we all know, a common childhood illness - its very unpleasant and itches like mad - but once a child contracts it and recovers they should be immune for life. However, what if a child with chickenpox is exposing the disease to an unborn child during pregnancy? Could there be a possibility of the baby picking up the disease - or could they be damaged in some way?
Well the simple answer is no. A baby in the womb cannot contract chickenpox from an outside source. However, if the mother carrying the baby has not had chickenpox before, there could be problems - although this is known to be quite rare. If the mother on the other hand had chickenpox already, then they will have developed a natural immunity, which will in turn protect the baby in the womb.
So what if you are unsure as to whether or not you had chickenpox as a child and just cannot remember - well to be safe, it is possible to have a simple blood test which can determine your immunity. The results of the test should be available after a few days. So how big are the risks to your unborn baby if you are not immune and end up contracting chickenpox? Well, in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy there is a two in 100 chance of the baby developing fetal varicella syndrome. This can cause significant birth defects including deformed limbs, brain damage and problems with the eyes and skin of the baby. Not a nice thought, but it is only a small risk, and if you think there is any chance you have not had chickenpox - get tested!
The good news is that between 20 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, no damage can be done to the baby from the mother having chicknpox. Unfortunately the last four weeks are vital though, as the baby can pick up the infection again and the effects can be significant and even life threatening.