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Varicella-zoster virus infection in pregnancy

Laura E Riley, MD
Section Editors
Martin S Hirsch, MD
Charles J Lockwood, MD, MHCM
Deputy Editor
Allyson Bloom, MD


Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is one of eight herpesviruses known to cause human infection worldwide. Varicella infection in children is generally a mild disease, while infection in adults can lead to significant morbidity and mortality. During pregnancy, varicella pneumonia can be particularly severe and maternal infection can lead to congenital abnormalities with devastating consequences [1].

This topic will address the epidemiology, infectious complications, management and prevention of varicella in the pregnant female. The clinical manifestations, treatment and prevention of VZV infection in the nonpregnant adult are discussed elsewhere. (See "Clinical features of varicella-zoster virus infection: Chickenpox" and "Treatment of varicella (chickenpox) infection" and "Vaccination for the prevention of chickenpox (primary varicella infection)".)

Management of the newborn who has been exposed to varicella is discussed elsewhere. (See "Varicella-zoster infection in the newborn".)


VZV infection causes two clinically distinct forms of disease: varicella (chickenpox) and herpes zoster (shingles).

Varicella — Primary VZV infection results in the diffuse vesicular rash of varicella, or chickenpox. Primary infection with VZV during pregnancy has significant implications for maternal and fetal health:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 28, 2017.
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