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What is the risk of SHINGLES in a pregnant lady?

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My wife is currently 5 months pregnant. We are set to see her grandmother tomorrow, who just had a flare up with shingles this past week. My wife has already had the chicken pox when she was younger. Our question is if it is okay to go ahead with visiting the grandmother, or should we skip until her shingles subsides? We are concerned about any possible exposure to our little one that is on the way.

Category: Family Physician-GP

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Dr. Deepu Sebin Sebastian is online now

Expert:  Dr. Deepu Sebin Sebastian replied 4 Days.

Thank you for your query at DoctorSpring.com.

I understand your concern and will do my best to help you.

You can safely go ahead with the visit.

The only way your little one would be affected is if your wife did not have chickenpox earlier and developed an infection now.

Since she has had chickenpox in her childhood, she has lifelong immunity against the Varicella zoster virus(VZV), which causes both chickenpox and its reactivation-shingles.

Reactivation of VZV occurs either in the elderly or immunocompromised host. Even if your wife is exposed to her grandmother now, there is hardly any risk of her getting infected as she is already immune; and practically no risk for your baby as long as he/she is safe inside the womb.

In fact, the fetus of an immune pregnant woman exposed to the varicella zoster virus(VZV), is safe from VZV. It is well documented in the literature that IgG antibodies are transplacentally(through the placenta) passed to the fetus providing the necessary immunity. These antibodies persist in the newborns for up to 6 months of life.

I hope that was helpful.

Feel free to ask queries.

Thank you.

Dr. Deepu Sebin Sebastian
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MD, Internal Medicine - Stanley Medical School
Medical School - MBBS - Govt. Medical College, Kottyaam

Diagnostic Prediction - Stanford School of Medicine
Received Specialty training in Critical Care, Cardiology, Neurology, Gastroenterology, Nephrology from Stanley Medical College and in Endocrinology, Rheumatology.

Hematology and Geriatrics from Madras Medical College.
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