Is Fifth Disease Dangerous if You're Pregnant?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

Is there any danger if I am pregnant and get fifth disease?

Doctor's response

Yes, the virus that causes fifth disease is dangerous during pregnancy. It is a teratogen: an agent that can disturb the development of the embryo or, later, the fetus. Teratogens halt the pregnancy or produce a congenital malformation (a birth defect). Classes of teratogens include radiation, chemicals, drugs, and maternal infections.

The maternal infection most widely known to be a teratogen is rubella (German measles). Fifth disease is in the same class.

The virus of fifth disease can infect the fetus. Although no congenital malformations (birth defects) have been reported, fifth disease can halt the pregnancy. It does so by causing the death of the fetus resulting in a miscarriage (a spontaneous abortion). The risk of this happening -- the risk of fetal death from fifth disease --is 5-10%.

You should avoid contact with anyone with fifth disease if you are pregnant.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018