Shingles During Pregnancy
Shingles can be quite painful. Many people who see their doctor for shingles say it was the pain that ultimately led them to seek treatment. Some report that the sensation of anything brushing across the inflamed nerve endings on the skin is almost unbearable. Even when the rash is gone, postherpetic neuralgia can persist, sometimes for years.
Shingles can cause other lasting complications as well. If it occurs on the face, it can damage your eyes. Shingles of the eye can lead to scarring, which can damage your vision. It can also lead to glaucoma, an eye disease that can cause blindness later in life.
Shingles can also cause hearing or balance problems, as well as weakness of the muscles on the affected side of the face. In rare cases, shingles can spread into the brain or spinal cord and cause serious complications such as stroke or meningitis (an infection of the membranes outside the brain and spinal cord).
According to the CDC, more than one-third of people who get shingles will develop serious complications. People whose immune systems are suppressed because of medication or diseases such as HIV run the greatest risk of complications. Complications are also more common among people over age 60, which precludes women of childbearing age. Nevertheless, if a shingles outbreak affects your eye or you notice any symptoms outside of the area of the outbreak, you should speak to your doctor right away.
The Bottom Line for You and Your Baby
The incidence of shingles in pregnant women is very low. If you are planning to get pregnant and are concerned about shingles, speak to your doctor about the possibility of the shingles vaccine. If you are already pregnant, practice healthy habits and let your doctor know if you have any symptoms. Early recognition and treatment will minimize the risk of complications for you and your baby.