Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Complications of Chickenpox During Pregnancy

Pregnant women who have chickenpox are at risk of complications. The type of complications depend on when the infection developed during pregnancy.

  • Pregnant women who have chickenpox during the first half of pregnancy may go into labor early (premature labor) or have a miscarriage.
  • Pregnant women who have chickenpox in the last part of pregnancy are more likely to develop varicella pneumonia. Even a healthy pregnant woman is at risk of dying if she develops varicella pneumonia.
  • Up to 2 out of 100 fetuses whose mothers have chickenpox during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy will also get chickenpox.1 This is called congenital varicella and can cause:
    • Birth defects. Birth defects can include one limb (usually a leg) smaller than the other, scars on the limbs, or eye problems such as cloudy lenses.
    • Low birth weight (weigh less than expected at birth).
    • Seizures. The baby can have seizures after birth.
    • Intellectual disability.
    • Shingles. Fetuses who have chickenpox will not have chickenpox again. But they can still have shingles, even as babies or young children.
    • Death. Up to 7 out of 100 of the fetuses who get congenital varicella die.2
  • Babies born within a few days of their mothers' chickenpox infection have a risk of severe chickenpox infection. These babies are at greater risk of complications from chickenpox.

Citations

  1. LaRussa PS, Marin M (2011). Varicella-zoster virus infections. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., chap. 250, pp. 1104–1110. Philadelphia: Saunders.

  2. Gardella C, Brown ZA (2007). Managing varicella zoster infection in pregnancy. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 74(4): 290–296.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerThomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last RevisedOctober 13, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 13, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

Woman smiling as she reads pregnancy test
Slideshow
pregnant woman with salad
Quiz
 
pregnancy am i pregnant
Article
calendar and baby buggy
Tool
 

slideshow fetal development
Slideshow
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
Article
 
What Causes Bipolar
Video
Woman trying on dress in store
Slideshow
 

pregnant woman
Article
Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
Video
 
healthtool pregnancy calendar
Tool
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
Video