Shingles and Pregnancy

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Quick GuideShingles Rash Pictures, Symptoms, Vaccine Facts

Shingles Rash Pictures, Symptoms, Vaccine Facts

Pain medication to treat shingles

Pain medications, such as acetaminophen, can also be used for pain relief, although these will not affect the progression of the blisters and rash. Pregnant women should discuss any pain relief medications with their health care professional. Pregnant women should not take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, etc.) late in the pregnancy.

Antihistamine medication to treat shingles

Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can help reduce any associated itching. Other home remedies for itching include oatmeal baths and calamine lotion. Many women find that applying cool cloths or compresses provides relief as well. Keeping the affected areas covered with clean gauze and wearing loose clothing can help speed healing and prevent secondary infection of the affected skin.

What are the complications of shingles in pregnancy?

Postherpetic neuralgia is the most common complication of shingles. This condition develops in about 20% of people who have shingles and is characterized by persistent pain at the affected site after the rash has disappeared. It goes away by 4 months after the initial rash in most people. This complication is less common in pregnant women since it rarely occurs in people under 40 years of age. Postherpetic neuralgia is more common in people over 60 who do not receive treatment for shingles.

Shingles that affects the eye is another uncommon condition. It is essential to see a doctor if you develop shingles around the eye area. In very rare cases, the virus can spread to the brain and membranes around the central nervous system. Other potential complications include hearing or balance problems and weakness of the muscles on one side of the face, known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome. All of these complications, like postherpetic neuralgia, are more common in older adults and affect pregnant women less commonly.

Sometimes, secondary bacterial infections develop at the site of the rash. These can be treated with antibiotics, and antibiotics can be chosen that are safe for use in pregnancy.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/7/2016

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