Measles in Pregnancy could be Dangerous- Study Finds

Image of a child taking a vaccine to cure measles

A  study conducted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), US, have recently found that having  measles during pregnancy is linked with an increased risk of premature birth, miscarriage or having a low-birth-weight baby.

Measles is a dangerous disease for both young and adult, so there is no convenient time of getting the infectious disease, but having it during pregnancy poses a particular threat to any unborn child.

It is a very contagious respiratory infection. It causes a total-body skin rash and flu-like symptoms.  Measles (also called rubeola) is caused by a virus, so there’s no specific medical treatment for it.

The measles can be dangerous for people of all ages, the disease spreads through the air by respiratory droplets produced from coughing or sneezing.

Measles symptoms don’t appear until 10 to 14 days after exposure. They include cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever and a red, blotchy skin rash. There’s no treatment to get rid of an established measles infection, but over-the-counter fever reducers or vitamin A may help with symptoms.

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The threat of the infectious disease affecting pregnant women and her baby was clearly illustrated in a case report, which detailed the case of a 27-year-old woman in England who had not been vaccinated but contacted measles during her third trimester and ended up needing an emergency cesarean section to save her baby.

When the woman was initially hospitalized, it wasn’t clear that she had measles, according to the case report, published in the journal BMJ Case Reports. In fact, it took doctors nearly 2 weeks to make the proper diagnosis.  Within a day of being hospitalized, the woman began having severe breathing problems.

Dr Jassimran Bansal, lead case report author, an obstetrics and gynecology, scientist from King’s College Hospital, explained that problems that arise from any respiratory infection are more severe in pregnant women, because the immune system is in a naturally suppressed state,

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She added that the woman’s breathing problems didn’t improve; they worsened over the next five days, and her lungs showed signs of severe respiratory failure.

Because both the woman and her baby’s health were at risk from her illness, the woman’s doctors recommended she have an emergency C- section, where she delivered a healthy, but premature baby.

Measles during pregnancy

This infectious disease is a difficult thing to diagnose during pregnancy, mostly because the infection’s telltale rash is absent, said Bansal who was involved with the woman’s treatment. It’s not clear why the characteristic rash which shows up as distinctive large red spots that typically spread from the face to the neck, trunk, arms, legs and feet may be absent, but it’s likely due to changes in the immune system that occur during pregnancy.

In fact, the woman did have a mild rash when she went to the hospital during her 32nd week of pregnancy. She told doctors that she also had a sore throat and fever. The rash, which was itchy with red bumps, had first appeared on the palms of her hands and then spread to her face, according to the report. But simply having a rash doesn’t mean a person have the measles; other viruses can also cause rashes, Bansal said.

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According to report, when the woman was admitted to the hospital, doctors initially suspected she may have had a nonspecific viral respiratory infection, like the flu, Bansal told Live Science. Measles was lower down on the list of possible diagnoses, because the woman didn’t have the typical rash, and because measles in pregnancy is still very rare in England, she noted.

As her illness worsened, however, doctors noted that her rash did spread to her chest, back and stomach, a pattern that is more typical of measles, according to the report.



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