- With Mayo Clinic obstetrician and medical editor-in-chief
Roger W. Harms, M.D.read biographyclose window
Roger W. Harms, M.D.Roger W. Harms, M.D.
"Nothing helps people stay healthy more than the power of real knowledge about health." — Dr. Roger Harms
As medical director of content, Dr. Roger Harms is excited about the potential for Mayo Clinic's health information site to help educate people about their health and provide them the tools and information to live healthier lives.
The Auburn, Neb., native has been with Mayo Clinic since 1981 and is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Harms is a practicing physician and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and his specialty areas include office gynecology, high-risk obstetrics and obstetrical ultrasound.
From 2002 to 2007, Dr. Harms was director for education at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dr. Harms was the 1988 Mayo Medical School Teacher of the Year and served as associate dean for student affairs and academic affairs. He is the co-author of the "Mayo Clinic Model of Education." In 2008, Dr. Harms was presented the Distinguished Educator Award, Mayo Clinic, Rochester.
Dr. Harms is vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and medical editor of the Pregnancy section on this website. In addition, Dr. Harms is editor-in-chief of the "Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy" book, a month-by-month guide to everything a woman needs to know about having a baby.
"My medical education experience has grown out of a love of teaching, and that is what this site is about," Dr. Harms says. "If any visitor to this site makes a more informed and thus more comfortable decision about his or her health because of the information we provide, we are successful."
Healthy pregnancy (18)
- Leg cramps during pregnancy: Preventable?
- Vaccines during pregnancy: Are they safe?
- Air travel during pregnancy: Is it safe?
- see all in Healthy pregnancy
First trimester (3)
- Implantation bleeding: Normal in early pregnancy?
- Birth control pills: Harmful in early pregnancy?
- Nausea during pregnancy: A good thing?
Second trimester (1)
- Fundal height: An accurate sign of fetal growth?
Third trimester (1)
- Hypnobirthing: How does it work?
Pregnancy problems (9)
- Low amniotic fluid: How is it treated?
- Diastasis recti: How does pregnancy affect stomach muscles?
- Cervical length: Why does it matter during pregnancy?
- see all in Pregnancy problems
Chickenpox and pregnancy: What are the concerns?
What are the risks associated with chickenpox and pregnancy?
from Roger W. Harms, M.D.
If you're pregnant and develop chickenpox (varicella) — a highly contagious viral illness that causes an itchy rash — you and your baby face serious health risks.
If you develop chickenpox during pregnancy, you're at high risk of potentially serious complications — such as pneumonia.
For your baby, the risks depend on the timing. If chickenpox develops during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy — particularly between weeks 8 and 20 — the baby faces a slight risk of a rare group of serious birth defects known as congenital varicella syndrome. A baby who has congenital varicella syndrome might develop:
- Scars on the skin
- Low birth weight
- Problems affecting the arms, legs, brain and eyes
If chickenpox develops during the few days before you deliver, the baby might be born with a potentially life-threatening infection.
If you're exposed to chickenpox during pregnancy and you're not immune, contact your health care provider immediately. He or she might recommend an injection of an immune globulin product that contains antibodies to the chickenpox virus. When given within 10 days of exposure, the immune globulin can prevent chickenpox or reduce its severity. Unfortunately, due to the rareness of congenital varicella syndrome, it isn't clear if this treatment helps protect the developing baby.
If you develop chickenpox during pregnancy, your health care provider might prescribe oral antiviral drugs to reduce the severity of the illness, as well as the risk of complications. If you have chickenpox when you deliver, your baby might be treated with an immune globulin product shortly after birth to prevent or reduce the severity of the illness. If your baby is born with chickenpox, antiviral drugs might be given as well.
If you're considering pregnancy and you haven't already had chickenpox or been immunized, ask your health care provider about the chickenpox vaccine. It's safe for adults, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends waiting at least four weeks after vaccination before trying to conceive. If you're not sure whether you're immune, your health care provider can do a simple blood test to find out.Next question
Blighted ovum: What causes it?
- Riley LE. Varicella-zoster virus infection in pregnancy. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Sept. 4, 2012.
- Speer ME. Varicella-zoster infection in the newborn. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Sept. 4, 2012.
- Chickenpox and pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/pregnancy_gateway/infections-chickenpox.html. Accessed Sept. 4, 2012.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. FDA approval of an extended period for administering VariZIG for postexposure prophylaxis of varicella. MMWR. 2012;61:212. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6112a4.htm. Accessed Sept. 5, 2012.