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39+3 with shingles. In MASSIVE pain and worried..

(17 Posts)
beckym8678 Sun 10-Mar-13 11:55:46

Well I could hardly be more fed-up. After a week of feeling v run-down (which I put down to being in last weeks of pregnancy with two mega-active DS to look after) I've developed a vile case of shingles. The pain is frankly astonishing, and with only a highly inadequate dose of paracetamol to counter it, I'm getting no sleep. This is particularly annoying as I'm expecting to give birth (at home if poss) any day now and could really do with some energy reserves.

On top of all the pain, insomnia and self-pity I'm also very worried about what this could mean for the baby. The GP was certain that shingles in pregnancy won't harm the baby as chicken pox might, but while the rash is active I can pass on ch pox virus to anyone who hasn't yet had it. GP thinks that the baby SHOULD have my immunity after the birth, but didn't seem certain enough. I've read that some people cover their blisters in an attempt to stop the virus getting out and about, but mine are all around my chest/armpit(OUCH)/back, and I have no idea how I could effectively cover this area and still breastfeed. The thought of engorged, blistered boobs makes me weep, just too pathetic for words.

So, other than the using this post for cathartic venting, I'd also really like to know if anyone else has experienced shingles+pregnancy, shingles+birth, shingles+breastfeeding, and whether you managed to coax anything better than 4 sodding paracetamol a day out of your GP. Any advice/encouraging tales of lovely, potent drugs (or even home remedies) very gratefully received. Ta.

ImpatientOne Sun 10-Mar-13 18:05:54

Poor you sad

I have no experience of pregnancy but I did have shingles when I was at primary school and I do remember it being miserable so can't imagine what a horrible time you are having.

Really hope someone more useful comes along and that you start feeling better soon.

Good luck with it all thanks

Petcat Sun 10-Mar-13 20:40:04

I am just extending you my sympathy too. I had shingles the month before I got pregnant. It's exhausting and very painful. I was prescribed co-codamol for the pain - might be worth discussing whether you could have this with your GP? It's prescribed for PGP in pregnancy so not totally off limits.

I had a newborn nephew at the time, who I had been cuddling a lot. I was told it would be very hard for him to contract chickenpox off me. You need extended skin-to-skin contact with the fresh blisters. Obviously this will happen with your newborn, so your best bet is keeping the rash covered if you can. The doctor told me my baby nephew would have immunity via his mum's milk, as she had already had chickenpox. With luck this will be the case for you too.

Calamine lotion will help the blisters to heal quicker but there's not much else you can do once the rash has come out. If it's still hurting after a month ask your doc about post-herpetic neuralgia. This has flared up during my pregnancy and can be more painful than shingles itself. There are lots of things that can be done to treat it though, although none are safe during pregnancy!

Good luck with your birth and hopefully you'll start feeling better soon.

beckym8678 Sun 10-Mar-13 21:27:10

Thank you both for the sympathy and support, shall ask GP about co-codamol, and keep an eye out for post-herpetic neuralgia, have stopped myself from googling too much about that as it sounds so grim (one thing at a time hey!).

Sorry to hear you've had it flare up during pregnancy petcat, I did notice that TENS machines can be used for PHN (I had been wondering if I could use mine for shingles rash pain, apparently not really) so maybe an option for you if pain gets really nasty?

Good luck to you too for the rest of your pregnancy, hope the PHN subsides and leaves you be from here on in..

MammaCici Sun 10-Mar-13 22:03:21

I had shingles at about 25 weeks with my first baby. All went ok. I went to my local hospital and saw a specialist in infectious diseases. I'd recommend you do the same. I don't want to scare you but he told me it could be dangerous if I was about to give birth and the blisters were still active (not crusted over), but would not cause problems during other stages of pregnancy. With shingles the virus (herpes zoster) is not active in your blood stream, it's isolated to whichever set of nerves you have it in so it doesn't pass the placenta. But for as long as you have the blisters you could infect people with chicken pox. This is very dangerous to newborns.
I really think you should seek out someone with specific knowledge in this area. Don't go on the advice of a GP. They aren't specialised enough and shingles is uncommon in pregnancy so he/she may not have seen it before, particularly at such a late stage.
Best if luck.

SuckingDiesel Sun 10-Mar-13 22:14:02

I had shingles when I was pregnant last year. GP prescribed Aciclovir anti viral medication which is great for killing off the virus quickly and considered safe for use in pregnancy. DD certainly hasn't come to any harm. I was cuddling my friend's (premature!) newbirn before I knew I had shingles but she was fine and didn't catch CP.

I had shingles again a few months ago and was worried about my DD catching CP. Dr reckoned that having it in pregnancy would give her 'super' immunity and she didn't catch it. I couldn't effectively cover the blisters as they were on my face (both times).

Hope you get well soon and good luck for the birth.

beckym8678 Tue 12-Mar-13 10:38:09

Thanks for the advice.. I'm on the anti-viral drugs too (makes you feel SO classy walking into a chemist 9 months pregnant to pick up herpes medication!) which I'm sure are helping stop the spread of the rash, which is just starting to heal up now, though not fast enough as I've just had a sleepless night of (admittedly irregular) contractions which have not stopped yet..

Mammacici - thanks for sharing your experience - have now contacted local hospital (Kings) via midwife to check with their Virology Dept who, somewhat maddeningly, said that the baby will be fine, though I should probably avoid letting him touch any still-infectious blisters if poss. This answer annoys me as surely it either IS or ISN'T ok, and if not then I need to take some pretty drastic precautions before breastfeeding (am envisaging a fetching peephole wetsuit type arrangement, nice) and limiting skin-to-skin contact. The midwife has agreed to ask the Neonatal unit too, for another opinion.

In the meantime am hoping that every minute that passes will allow time for some of that super-immunity to build, and the vile shingles to heal. No curries, pineapples, long walks for me today...

Petcat Tue 12-Mar-13 12:35:45

Hi Becky

I was wondering how you are getting on. I hope your baby hangs on in there long enough for your skin to heal up. Otherwise you may well have to get creative with your breastfeeding wear! Do you have a partner who can provide skin-to-skin cuddles too? It's very far from ideal but baby will still benefit if you are unable to hold them against your skin at first.

Thank you or the suggestion of using the TENs for PHN. I hadn't considered it before but am going to discuss with my doctor this week. I had shingles around my right ribcage and now the nerve constantly hurts. It would be a godsend if the TENs could help out. At the moment I'm reduced to alternating between ice packs and hot water bottles with some (pointless) paracetamol on top. I'm hoping once baby drops out of my ribcage a little it will hurt a bit less, I'm sure having all my internal organs packed in there isn't helping... The joys of pregnancy, eh smile

beckym8678 Tue 12-Mar-13 17:22:43

Hi Petcat
Well no baby yet, despite a day of contractions. If it weren't for the shingles I'd be doing jumping jacks (or gingerly walking up and down stairs, maybe) to get things moving, but right now I can't help thinking that if this is all going to take a while, so be it. The Neonatal people also said probably all fine, but.. So my midwife is sensibly arming herself with tape, dressings etc to try and cover up any contagious looking patches. She agrees with me that 'probably' ok isn't good enough when it comes to newborns and chicken pox. I did hear one encouraging thing from the Neonatal experts though, which is that even if the baby does contract chicken pox from my shingles he is unlikley to get a bad case, thanks to my heightened immunity after 5+ days of this virus. In the meantime yes, my husband will be doing some extra skin-to-skin cuddling, and the midwife suggested that I put aside a day some time soon (once he's here and I'm totally healed up) to spend sitting in bed with the new baby, doing only that. Sounds good to me!

I really hope that you find some relief from your PHN with a TENS unit, I'm sure you're as capable of googling as I am but this is what I found: looks encouraging.. Paracetamol really are useless, I'm hugely sympathetic..

ImpatientOne Tue 12-Mar-13 23:01:28

Hey becky

Glad to see you are getting a bit more support and advice now smile I hope it all keeps on improving.

It's frustratingly astonishing how contradictory the information around shingles and chicken pox is, I can understand that within the general population it's confusing but I'd hoped HCPs would be better informed. Depending on my mood I do try to explain that you don't 'catch' shingles but some days I just have to nod and smile grin

Good luck and keep us updated!

Flojobunny Tue 12-Mar-13 23:12:29

Any update OP?

MammaCici Wed 13-Mar-13 13:12:23

I'm also wondering how you are getting on.

If your blisters are still active when baby comes would you consider only allowing baby to latch on your good side and pumping very frequently from the effected side until you are confident the blisters aren't active anymore? You could freeze the pumped milk.

With DS I had major issues with one breast (plugged ducts and extreme engorgement that turned my nipple to stone) and DS could physically only latch on one side for several weeks. If you are going to favour feeding from your "good" side I'd highly recommend a hospital grade pump to get your supply going properly on the "shingles" side, right from the start. I delayed in pumping from my bad side and I never got a full supply there. It's perfectly possible to successfully breastfeed from one side only but you will end up lob-sided. I was lob-sided but that resolved itself when BF ended (at the start of my current pregnancy when DS was 2).

Wishing you and your baby the very best. xxx

beckym8678 Fri 15-Mar-13 21:22:56

Sorry for slow response - you can probably guess why - my attempts to hold back labour didn't work one bit and I now have a gorgeous tiny boy asleep on one arm! He arrived at home, in the wee small hours of wednesday morning. My midwife helped me cover every blister with plasters, tape, gauze, horrible sticky film stuff before the birth, all of which which I managed to sweat off at the last moment. Am hoping that the slick of vernix still covering my son helped protect him during those first minutes before I realised what had happened and repositioned..

The shingles have faded significantly though I'm still covered in tape to minimise risk of passing on virus, and it still hurts like hell (waking me more often than any one of my three sons!) and I'm obviously on major alert for any signs of chicken pox on my baby - shall inevitably be jumping at every newborn spot that appears..

ImpatientOne - know what you mean about nodding and smiling - even the GP who came to do the new baby check described chicken pox rather than shingles when I asked a specific question about the blisters. Oh well. Better get back to my wee one now, but thank you all again for your support.

Petcat Fri 15-Mar-13 22:39:57

Aw, congratulations on the safe arrival of your little boy! Hope you have a swift recovery aided by some decent painkillers, and that your new DS stays healthy and strong x

ImpatientOne Fri 15-Mar-13 23:27:19

Congratulations grin

Hope things settle down with the pain, you are a hero, well done!

MammaCici Sat 16-Mar-13 16:19:45

Congratulations! It must be great to have the birth behind you and a beautiful baby boy in your arms. Wishing you both the very best. xx

beckym8678 Mon 15-Apr-13 15:55:18

Am just updating this in case anyone else finds themselves in this position, and would like to know what happened in our case. A month after his birth my son has shown no sign at all of catching chicken pox from my shingles, hurray hurray... This despite my rather imperfect attempts to keep him off the blisters, so I guess he DID have a hefty dose of immunity from me. Huge relief. And if you're reading this because you too have the vile combination of shingles+pregnancy/birth, my heart goes out to you, but it will pass...

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