- Shingles and Pregnancy
- What Is Shingles?
- Pictures of Shingles
- Shingles & Baby
Shingles in pregnancy facts
- Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash that results from reactivation of infection with the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the virus that causes chickenpox.
- The rash of shingles can be extremely painful and typically occurs over the area of one nerve.
- Antiviral medications are used to treat shingles. These drugs are safe to use in pregnancy.
- Other medications to manage shingles can include acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) for pain relief or antihistamines for itching.
- Complications from shingles occur most often in older adults and are less common in pregnant women.
- Shingles in pregnancy typically heals without long-term problems for mother or baby.
What is shingles?
- Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by reactivation of prior infection with the same virus that previously caused chickenpox, known as varicella zoster virus (VZV).
- VZV belongs to the herpes family of viruses, but it is not the same virus that causes genital herpes or cold sores on the mouth.
- When a person is infected with VZV in childhood, they typically develop chickenpox, but after the illness resolves the VZV remains in a dormant state in the nervous system and is never fully cleared from the body.
- Under certain circumstances, such as emotional stress, immune deficiency (from AIDS or chemotherapy), or with cancer, the virus reactivates and causes the skin and nerve inflammation known as shingles.
- Shingles occurs most commonly in people over the age of 60, but anyone who has ever had chickenpox is at risk, including pregnant women.
- It has been estimated that up to 1,000,000 cases of shingles occur each year in the U.S.
What does shingles look like?
- Shingles is characterized by clusters of red blisters that appear on the skin.
- The small, fluid-filled blisters may burst and then crust over.
- The patches of blisters may also appear like a band or a stripe across the skin.
What are the signs and symptoms of shingles?
- The hallmark symptom of shingles is a painful, blistering rash. Pain from shingles may be severe in intensity.
- The pain, or a tingling sensation in some cases, may precede the development of the actual rash, making the cause of the pain hard to ascertain.
- Small blisters form on a red base, and new blisters continue to appear for 3 to 5 days.
- The rash follows the path of individual nerves, and typically presents in a band-like pattern on one side of the body.
- After the blisters rupture, they begin to crust over and heal. The entire outbreak from onset to healing takes about 3 to 4 weeks.
- Fever, headache, chills, and nausea can sometimes accompany the painful skin rash.
How is shingles diagnosed?
- The characteristic rash of shingles typically suggests the diagnosis, and in most cases, no specific diagnostic tests are required.
- In cases in which there is pain but no apparent rash, the diagnosis can be very difficult.
- Laboratory testing to detect the genetic material or surface proteins of the VZV can be used in atypical or difficult cases.
What is the treatment for shingles when pregnant?
Antiviral medication to treat shingles
- The prescription antiviral medications typically used to treat shingles are safe to take during pregnancy. These drugs include
- Antiviral medications can reduce the severity and duration of the rash if started early (within 72 hours of the appearance of the rash).
IMAGESSee pictures of shingles and other viral skin conditions See Images
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 washcloths 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 affect 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.
- Your Child Is Sick. Do You Call Your Doctor or Head to the ER?
- Mental Health Care Shortage Could Play Role in U.S. Youth Suicides
- Shopping Black Friday for TVs, Furniture? Don't Forget the Tip-Over Kit
- Keeping Thanksgiving Day Kitchens Safe for the Whole Family
- All the Flavor, Better Health: Holiday Dinner Ingredient Swaps That Work
- More Health News »
What is the outlook (prognosis) for shingles in pregnancy?
Most cases of shingles heal without a risk of serious complications or long-term problems.
Is shingles contagious to your baby while pregnant?
- If you have had chickenpox in the past, you have been infected with the VZV and there is no absolute way to prevent shingles. However, you cannot catch shingles from someone else who has shingles or chickenpox if you have had chickenpox or have immunity to the chickenpox virus.
- However, pregnant women who have not had chickenpox may catch chickenpox from someone with shingles or chickenpox.
- Chickenpox infection during pregnancy can be dangerous to the unborn baby, so it is important to avoid contact with people with shingles or chickenpox if you have not had the condition or the vaccine.
- Children in the US today are typically vaccinated against the VZV (chickenpox vaccine).
- A vaccine to prevent shingles (Zostavax) is also available that reduces the incidence of shingles by about 50%, but the vaccine cannot be taken by pregnant women. Women who receive the Zostavax vaccine should wait at least 3 months before attempting pregnancy.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Medscape, Varicella-Zoster Virus.
"Shingles (Herpes Zoster)." CDC.gov. Updated Aug. 19, 2016.
Top Shingles and Pregnancy Related Articles
Fever in Adults and ChildrenAlthough a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 F (37 C), in practice, a person is usually not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C). Fever is part of the body's own disease-fighting arsenal; rising body temperatures apparently are capable of killing off many disease-producing organisms.
Can You Have a Mild Case of Shingles?The severity of shingles depends on various factors, such as age of the patient, general health condition of the patient, and the part of the body where shingles develops.
Is It Contagious QuizIs it contagious? Take this quiz to learn about contagious diseases, how contagious diseases are spread, and myths and facts about contagions.
DiarrheaDiarrhea is a change is the frequency and looseness of bowel movements. Symptoms associated with diarrhea are cramping, abdominal pain, and the sensation of rectal urgency. Causes of diarrhea include viral, bacterial, or parasite infection, gastroenteritis, food poisoning, and drugs. Absorbents and anti-motility medications are used to treat diarrhea.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea is an uneasiness of the stomach that often precedes vomiting. Nausea and vomiting are not diseases, but they are symptoms of many conditions. There are numerous cases of nausea and vomiting. Some causes may not require medical treatment, for example, motion sickness, and other causes may require medical treatment by a doctor, for example, heart attack, lung infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Some causes of nausea and vomiting may be life-threatening, for example, heart attack, abdominal obstruction, and cancers.
Treatment of nausea and vomiting depends upon the cause.
PMS vs. Pregnancy (Differences and Similarities)Many women have difficulty figuring out if they are pregnant, have PMS, or are about to start their period. The most common signs and symptoms of early pregnancy, PMS, and the start of your period include mood swings, back pain, increased urination, and tender breasts. These three conditions also share other similar signs and symptoms, but there are unique differences between each. Moreover, there are symptoms that only occur if you are pregnant. Early pregnancy symptoms, PMS, and the start of the menstrual period all have common signs and symptoms like mood swings, back pain, and breast pain. Symptoms and signs between the three conditions that may seem similar, but are slightly different include the following: Pelvic or abdominal cramping before or during your menstrual period is normal; however, the cramping of early pregnancy is mild. If you are pregnant, nausea and vomiting, or morning sickness, is common. They are not common symptoms of PMS. Fatigue is common in both, but PMS usually goes away once your period begins. Food cravings or aversions to certain foods are common in both pregnancy and PMS, but if you are pregnant, the cravings or aversions to foods are more specific and intense. You may have spotting or bleeding if you are pregnant or suffering from PMS. When the embryo inserts itself into the uterus (implantation bleeding), you may mistake it as your menstrual period. However, implantation bleeding is much lighter (not enough to soak a pad or tampon) than the heaving bleeding experienced at the beginning of your period. Signs and symptoms that you may have only if you are pregnant include, implantation cramping and bleeding, a white, milky vaginal discharge, and your areolas or nipples darken. The only way to find out if you are pregnant is with a pregnancy test. Home pregnancy test kits are available without a prescription at pharmacies and most grocery stores. Contact a doctor or other health care professional if you think you may be pregnant.
Early Pregnancy Symptoms and SignsPregnancy symptoms can vary from woman to woman, and not all women experience the same symptoms. When women do experience pregnancy symptoms they may include symptoms include missed menstrual period, mood changes, headaches, lower back pain, fatigue, nausea, breast tenderness, and heartburn. Signs and symptoms in late pregnancy include leg swelling and shortness of breath. Options for relief of pregnancy symptoms include exercise, diet, and other lifestyle changes.
RashThe word "rash" means an outbreak of red bumps on the body. The way people use this term, "a rash" can refer to many different skin conditions. The most common of these are scaly patches of skin and red, itchy bumps or patches all over the place.
ShinglesShingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella zoster virus. Other shingles symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, and body aches. Treatment focuses on pain management and shortening the duration of the illness with antiviral medications.
Shingles QuizShingles falls within a well-known family of viruses that cause itching, burning, blisters, and pain. Take the Shingles Quiz to get the facts, causes, symptoms, and treatments for this itchy, painful condition.
Shingles PicturesAn acute infection caused by the herpes zoster virus, the same virus as causes chickenpox. See a picture of Shingles and learn more about the health topic.
ShinglesShingles occurs when the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox, re-emerges due to a weakened immune system. Tingling may occur before herpes zoster blisters appear, usually on the side of the body. The shingles vaccine can boost the immune system to lower the risk of shingles outbreaks.
Shingles Myths and FactsThere are some common misconceptions about this viral illness and the uncomfortable rash it can cause. Here's a guide through the myths and facts of shingles.
Skin Problems: Rosacea, Acne, Shingles, Covid-19 RashesLearn to spot and treat skin conditions commonly found in adults such as acne, Covid-19 rashes, eczema, shingles, psoriasis, rosacea, hives, cold sores, razor bumps, athlete's foot, and more dermatology details.
StrokeA stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain caused by either a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding (hemorrhagic). Symptoms of a stroke may include weakness, numbness, double vision or vision loss, confusion, vertigo, difficulty speaking or understanding speech. A physical exam, imaging tests, neurological exam, and blood tests may be used to diagnose a stroke. Treatment may include administration of clot-busting drugs, supportive care, and in some instances, neurosurgery. The risk of stroke can be reduced by controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stopping smoking.
What Triggers a Shingles Outbreak?Shingles occur when the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus responsible for chickenpox, reactivates in the body, usually due to a weakened immune system. Learn about the symptoms of shingles and how you can treat them.