Herpes Zoster During Pregnancy
An infection with the virus that causes herpes zoster can pose some risk to an unborn child, depending on the stage of pregnancy. If a woman develops herpes zoster during pregnancy, there are several treatment options available. For example, many of the antiviral drugs used to treat herpes zoster appear to be safe to use during pregnancy. However, certain drugs (such as aspirin) should not be taken during the third trimester.
An Overview of Herpes Zoster and PregnancyMany pregnant women are concerned about any infection during pregnancy, and rightly so -- this is because some infections can be transmitted across the mother's bloodstream to the fetus or can be acquired by the baby during the birth process.
Both chickenpox (also known as varicella) and herpes zoster (also known as shingles) are caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). A VZV infection during pregnancy poses some risk to the unborn child, depending upon the stage of pregnancy. Before week 30 of pregnancy, women who develop chickenpox may, in some cases, have a baby with a birth defect. Such cases are rare, and experts differ in their opinions on how great the risk is.
Most experts agree that herpes zoster during pregnancy is even less likely to cause harm to the unborn child.
Developing Herpes Zoster During PregnancyHerpes zoster during pregnancy is rare. However, just like women who are not pregnant, women who are pregnant can develop herpes zoster. Herpes zoster treatment for pregnant women is similar to herpes zoster treatment for women who are not pregnant.
The mainstay of treatment for herpes zoster is antiviral medicine. This type of treatment includes drugs such as:
These medicines are all pregnancy Category B medicines, meaning that they appear to be safe for use during pregnancy. Pregnancy Category B is a category used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Drugs in this category have not been studied in pregnant women. But when studied in pregnant animals, they showed no negative effects on the fetus.
It is important to note that animals do not always respond to medicines the same way that humans do. Therefore, a pregnancy Category B medicine may be given to a pregnant woman if her healthcare provider believes that its benefits outweigh any possible risks to the unborn child.
Other medicines that are often used to treat herpes zoster include pain medicines. The specific pain medicine that may be recommended will depend on how far along a woman is in her pregnancy. For example, aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (such as Advil® and Motrin®) should not be taken during the third trimester.
(You can learn more about treatment options for herpes zoster by clicking on Treatment for Herpes Zoster.)