Chicken Pox: Can Infection Hurt My Baby?

I'm 17 weeks pregnant, and in my 14th week I contracted chicken pox. I have never contracted them before until now, and I'm very worried for the health of my baby. In the British medical books they say that after the 12th week, there is only a 2% chance the baby will have contracted the virus and be born with a limb defect. I'm originally from Canada and my Aunt works for my family doctor and he said that contracting the virus before 16 weeks is more of a risk to the baby. I'm very scared and confused at who could be more right.


Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

How unfortunate that you should find yourself with this concern during pregnancy.

Two recent studies have shown a relatively low frequency of fetal defects with exposure in the first half of pregnancy, although there is still an increased risk. The rates of affected newborns (those with congenital defects that could be related to the infection) was 1-2%. When maternal infection occurred before 13 weeks of gestation, the frequency of congenital infection was only 0.4%.

You should have an ultrasound to detect fetal findings relevant to varicella infection. These would be such things as fetal hydrops (an accumulation of fluid in fetal spaces), excess amniotic fluid, "hyperechogenic foci in the fetal abdominal organs, especially the liver, limb deformities, small head size, and growth restriction.

You should seek a second opinion and get a referral to an experienced ultrasonographer.

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