Shingles Exposure During Pregnancy: Birth Defects, Effects and Complications

The fetal immune system is a little complicated. Fetuses are constantly exposed to foreign proteins and agents through the mother’s placenta, so need an immune system created for such an unpredictable environment.

Pregnancy and the immunity of the fetus

Additionally, within the womb, the baby has yet to develop an adult skin or mucal membranes that would be equivalent to an older human. As an infant, they are prone to disease and considered a particularly vulnerable population as they aren’t finished being developed upon birth.

A modern perspective

According to a 2017 publication in Nature, the second trimester of your child is dedicated to more than just the first bowel movement or bone growth. This landmark study argued that the system isn’t immature, but rather is specialized for the conditions in the uterus. Humans are also unique and studying them through animal models like rats or mice has led to a delay in understanding.

By the 9th week, T cells and other immune cells can be present. Dendritic cells, responsible for breaking down unwanted foreign particles into fragments, are functional by only 13 weeks of gestation. Functionally, they are nearly identical to those in adulthood. Differences lie in how they respond rather they whether a response is present.

Instead of annihilated foreign materials, they’ll more likely call over regulatory T cells which suppress rather than contribute to an immune response. Because of this, they are theoretically able to not respond to the presence of the mother’s foreign cells. This would be catastrophic and potentially is an underlying factor to an episode of miscarriage. This also means that they are not well equipped to deal with diseases. If a mother’s immune system was not personally able to fight off a pathogen before it reaches her reproductive organs, the unborn child may become infected. Some complications can be viewed using pictures like ultrasounds and sonograms.

Should I avoid shingles exposure during pregnancy?

If you are appropriately immunized, rest assured your baby will not get shingles. If you are not vaccinated, that’s a different story. In cases of immunosuppression were getting the vaccine is not possible, you should steer clear of shingles exposure during pregnancy. If you have previously had chickenpox or had chickenpox vaccines, there is also no reason to worry. In cases where avoidance is crucial, refrain from going to crowded places during a season of a known outbreak, especially places where lots of children would be congregated. Don’t hang out with unvaccinated individuals (a golden rule to follow if you have an immune problem). This can limit your chances of running into someone with the disease. Your doctor may refuse inoculation once you are aware of the pregnancy. This is due to a matter of caution as opposed to foreseen risks suggested by research. Limiting contact with individuals who carry any contagious ideas while pregnant is a good idea. Trusted agencies, like the NHS, can offer advice.

How will shingles during pregnancy affect the baby

Having chickenpox or shingles during pregnancy can affect the baby’s health as with other infections while carrying. While there is a risk of birth defects and things of this theme, it is unlikely. Outbreaks during pregnancy are rare, and it’s even rarer for the problem to be extreme. Before you continue reading about the potential tragedies, know they are statistically unlikely and swift and efficient treatment will likely eliminate problems in case the unlikely circumstance arises. You can refer to your doctor or the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for more information.

Shingles and pregnancy birth defects

congenital varicella syndrome is one of the incredibly rare birth defects of contracting shingles during pregnancy. These newborns may have a lower than average birth weight and exhibit other structural abnormalities. These are normally limited to the skin, brain, eyes, arms, legs, hands, or feet. Severity depends on the personal case but has a connection with a point in a gestational period where the infection began.

How common are these symptoms of shingles during pregnancy

Although rare overall, there are traits within this disease which are more common than others. Between 88 and 99 % of all newborns who suffer this disease exhibit atypical scarring and the growth retardation (prenatal growth deficiency). This has to do with being born at significantly lower weights than what is deemed healthy and weird birthmarks due to scars being formed inside. In about 30 to 9 percent of patents, cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye)or cerebral cortical atrophy (shrinkage of the outer layer of the brain) will occur.

In neurostructural abnormalities, global developmental delays should be expected. These could be things such as hindrance of meeting developmental milestones or intellectual disability. Micromelia (shorter than normal limbs) or microphthalmia (tiny eyeballs) are another possibility.

Microcephaly, characterized by a decreased size of cranium and skull circumference, is an extreme effect which is most often fatal. If you have ever seen baby’s with this disease, you will notice their distinctly different physiology.

Shingles and pregnancy complications

Most of these defects are recoverable and won’t extensively impair the child’s ability to live. Sadly, some of the former are deadly. In these cases, stillbirth may be a possibility. Even if it’s not born stillborn, died shortly after childbirth is a sad reality for certain developmental problems. Luckily, these effects are all incredibly rare. Having chickenpox or herpes zoster during pregnancy will rarely affect you or the baby. Of course, the painful rash will cause you some extra discomfort. Shingles and pregnancy complications are rare. Treat the virus at the first signs of symptoms in order to avoid any issues.

 

 

Article References:

  1. https://www.nature.com
  2. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vaccine-in-pregnancy-advice-for-pregnant-women/chickenpox-and-shingles-vaccines-advice-for-pregnant-women
  3. https://medlineplus.gov/shingles.html
  4. https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/45/congenital-varicella-syndrome
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3192075/

RECENTLY ADDED