Fifth Disease during Pregnancy

Fifth disease during pregnancy is not something to take lightly. If you are pregnant, it can be a wonderful and exciting time, but if you become ill whilst pregnant you may worry that your baby is at risk. If you have never had fifth disease then you are still susceptible to it, and if you are at a high risk of contracting the virus that causes it (Parvovirus B19) then you will undoubtedly wish to know about any added complications caused by fifth disease during pregnancy. You may, for example, have a child that is infected with the virus, or may work with children as a healthcare professional or teacher, raising the chance that you will become infected.

Most women who become infected by Parvovirus B19 whilst pregnant still deliver healthy babies. It usually does not cause premature birth or defects of any kind. If you become infected with fifth disease during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, however, there is around a 10% chance of miscarriage or stillbirth occurring. Infections after the 20 week mark have a much lower chance (about 1%) of this occurring.

Fifth Disease Pregnancy

In some cases, developing fifth disease during pregnancy can lead to anemia or inflammation of the heart in the fetus. If this is severe it can lead to hydrops which can cause death, although even in these cases it is still possible for the fetus to be born healthy. Rarely, babies can be born that are unable to make necessary red blood cells. These babies will need blood transfusions to keep them alive.

Unfortunately, there are no preventative measures for fifth disease, and if you become infected there is no instant cure. Hydrops can be detected by ultrasound so if you become infected during pregnancy regular scans are advised. If your baby shows signs of hydrops in the later stages of pregnancy, an early delivery may be considered in order to treat it. Also, successful fetal blood transfusions have been done for babies suffering from severe anemia and hydrops in the second and third trimesters.

If you are not immune to fifth disease, your chances of catching the disease from an infected family member are around 50%, and if you work with children on a daily basis your chance of getting infected is around 20-30%. It is important to note that the human Parvovirus is unrelated to the one that infects pets so if your dog has a Parvovirus infection, for example, this does not mean you are at risk of infection. If you are unsure whether you have previously had fifth disease and want to check your immunity to it, it is possible to have a blood test which looks for the antibodies to Parvovirus B19.

If you think you may be infected by the Parvovirus B19 or you are at a high risk of developing fifth disease during pregnancy, you should talk to your family doctor. If you are not immune and work with children, he will be able to advise you on the best ways to minimize the chance of infection.