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ABSTRACT

This paper reviews the important concepts about varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection, varicella (chickenpox), and herpes zoster (shingles, zoster) during pregnancy and the peripartum period. The majority of the U.S. population has had chickenpox during childhood, leaving only about 10% of adults over the age of 15 susceptible to the virus. However, nonimmune adults, including pregnant women, are at greater risk for complications and mortality when they contrac varicella. The virus is also teratogenic. The implication of VZV infection during pregnancy and the perinatal period are presented. Risks such as varicella pneumonia and congenital defects can be serious even though the incidence during pregnancy is low, one to five per 10,000 pregnancies. Management and treatment plans are presented. Counseling and education aimed at prevention or modification of the infection in the mother and baby is outlined.