Shingles and pregnancy

Shingles and pregnancy – Symptoms of Shingles

Pregnancy brings a lot of changes in the life of every woman. Women experience morning sickness , mood swings , fatigue , frequent urination , cramps and what not. All pregnant women experience it, but sometimes, women may become vulnerable to certain diseases like shingles during pregnancy. Does it cause difficulties during pregnancy? Let us know!

What is Shingles?

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a skin disease. It is accompanied by a painful rash , usually on one side of the upper body.

What causes shingles?

Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox . People who have previously been affected with chickenpox have an increased chance of developing shingles, as the virus remains dormant in their body for years. Shingles can also be triggered by pre-existing conditions in the body, such as HIV, treatments like chemotherapy, and even corticosteroid medications, which are given to relieve inflammation and irritation. All these factors help in reducing the immunity and hence it becomes a favorable environment for the virus to flourish in your body.

Symptoms of Shingles

Shingles and pregnancy
Shingles and pregnancy

If anyone in your family has had chickenpox before or has a weak immune system, then it is important to keep an eye on these symptoms.

1. Initial stage 

  • It is common to have fever , headache , and weakness before any specific symptoms of shingles appear .
  • A burning or numb feeling in certain areas of the body, usually on one side of the torso or face, along with a tingling sensation.
  • The rashes caused by shingles appear after a few days.

2. Second stage

  • The appearance of red, blotchy, swollen patches on the skin around the area where you are feeling pain. The shingles virus remains dormant inside nerve cells. These itchy patches occur along the path of the nerve.
  • As your body tries to fight the virus, other inevitable symptoms associated with immunological attacks occur. These include fever, diarrhea , nausea and difficulty in urination .

3. Third Stage 

  • Rashes with pus-filled blisters on swollen areas of the skin.
  • These blisters gradually dry up and peel upward. This process takes at least ten to fourteen days.
  • Even after the wounds dry up, the dull pain persists for up to four months and, in some people, for years.

Is Shingles Contagious? 

Shingles itself is not contagious, but the virus that causes it is more contagious. Shingles causes blisters that can spread the virus varicella-zoster if someone touches the pus from the blisters of an infected person. A person exposed to this virus will first develop chickenpox, not shingles. However, women who have previously had chickenpox will not get infected by coming in contact with an infected person, because this inactive virus is already present in their body.

How is shingles diagnosed? 

Shingles is diagnosed by characteristic rashes on the body. However, if there are no rashes, it is impossible to have an accurate diagnosis without using highly advanced testing to detect the varicella-zoster virus.

Can shingles harm mother and baby? 

Does shingles affect pregnancy – this question must be arising in the minds of all pregnant women. In such a situation, it is natural for a woman to feel nervous, but there is no need to worry. Shingles has little effect on pregnancy. Since shingles only affects people who have previously had chickenpox, they already have immunity against the virus. This immunity protects the child during pregnancy.

Treatment of Shingles

There is no cure for shingles. This problem usually starts and ends within a month. During this time, pain killers and anti-viral medication are used to provide limited relief to the symptoms. However, one should talk to a doctor before taking any medicine for shingles during pregnancy , as it may harm the fetus.

self care tips

Usually the problem of shingles subsides within a month. But a little effort on your part can provide relief from the pain and itching caused by shingles. Here are some self-care tips you can try if you get shingles during pregnancy:

  • Apply cold compresses to rashes to soothe burning and itching. Taking bath with cold water also reduces pain.
  • Calamine solutions or oatmeal baths bind with the skin and soothe the itch. They also speed up the drying of blisters.
  • Use loose gauze bandages to cover affected areas. It helps dry up the rashes. Wearing a tight bandage causes moisture to develop between the skin and the bandage, which increases the rash.
  • Change bandages every day or after every bath.
  • Wear loose clothes .

How to avoid shingles during pregnancy?

Vaccination helps prevent shingles during pregnancy. However, you should get vaccinated at least 3 months before conceiving to avoid vaccination-related side effects during pregnancy. If you have never had chickenpox, avoid contact with other people who have shingles or chickenpox, as this may cause you to get chickenpox. Chickenpox is extremely dangerous during pregnancy . There is a risk of birth defects or infection in the child. Therefore, you should adopt necessary measures to handle it in advance.

If you develop rashes during pregnancy or are concerned about your health, we recommend contacting your gynecologist for help and to address your concerns.