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Q&A:
Will exposure to chicken pox harm my unborn baby if I've already had the disease?

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Question


I am an expectant mother. My baby is due November 5. My elder son is 6 years old and has chicken pox. Is this a problem for me (I had chicken pox when I was 8 years old) or for the baby inside my womb?

Answer

Your question, which arrived in early October, led me to conclude that your son will be entirely over chicken pox by your delivery date in November. It generally takes up to three weeks for the pox bumps to stop erupting and to crust over, at which time he would no longer be at risk for spreading the disease to anybody. You are protected from getting the disease as you had it in the past. If anything, your son's illness will boost your immunity. You have already and will continue to pass on antibodies to your unborn child so he or she will be born with protection, protection that will only be strengthened by breastfeeding. Your milk will contain antibodies as you are immune. So even if the baby comes into a household where chicken pox is still present, he or she will have protection. There is a special concern only if:

* the mom has not had chicken pox or doesn't know whether she did
* the pox break out just before or right after birth so the baby has no protective antibodies passed on in time to help
* the older child has additional infection of the lesions with staph or strep bacteria that could be an additional danger to the infant

In these cases, additional testing and perhaps treatment might be needed, so let all health care providers know. Don't bring your older son to any health care facility while he has any active lesions. Keep him home and comfortable, and rest assured knowing your unborn child is not at risk.

 
 
 
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