Pregnant and Diagnosed with Fifth Disease

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Events Leading up to Fifths Disease Diagnosis.

As most of you can tell, I've been MIA for the last little while. In June I found out we are expecting again. We currently have 5 healthy happy little girls and we were very excited to find out that we are going to have a new little blessing in our life.

On June 29th I became ill with flu symptoms. I kept telling my husband and family that I felt very sick and like I had the flu. I called the doctor asking what I could take for one of the worst headaches I've ever had in my life and was told that Tylenol was the only safe option and of course that wasn't helping.

On July 3rd we had an ultrasound to confirm our dates as I had no cycle to go by due to breastfeeding our (almost) 2 year old. Baby had a nice healthy heartbeat of 173 and we were given an EDD of Feb 8,2013.

8weeks 4days

I was still sick but was told it had to run it's course which I logically knew but when you have a horrible headache and your entire body hurts you still seek advice. From the 4-6th I was so sick I couldn't even get out of bed. My body hurt and my head hurt so badly that I would sleep and then wake wondering if I had rested. On July 9th I woke feeling a lot better however I was covered in a lacy rash and so was my youngest daughter. Her cheeks looked as if she had been slapped in the face and this prompted me to go online and put in my symptoms.

The lacy rash that covered my entire body

After pouring through Google images and many websites with information about my symptoms. I finally concluded that I needed to see my doctor as I suspected Fifth Disease. My next Google search prompted me to try to find out if this was dangerous during pregnancy and unfortunately I found out that it in fact CAN be dangerous. Not for myself but for my baby. Especially if contracted during the first trimester. If you're finding this blog because you are pregnant and have been diagnosed with Fifth Disease then I hope some of the resources I've shared are helpful. If you have additional resources or have experience with fifth disease during pregnancy, please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below!

What is Fifth Disease?

According to the Center of Disease Control

Fifth disease is a mild rash illness caused by parvovirus B19. This disease is also called erythema infectiosum. It is more common in children than adults. A person usually gets sick within 4 to 14 days (sometimes up to 20 days) after getting infected with parvovirus B19. About 20% of children and adults who get infected with this virus will not have any symptoms.

Parvovirus? Did I contract this from my pet?

If you're like me you heard "parvo" and immediately started blaming yourself for having pets. Please, rest assured that this is not the case. Fifth disease is human parvovirus B19. It infects only humans and while there are parvoviruses that infect animals, you cannot catch these from your pet or animals and likewise, they cannot catch fifth disease from you.

Is Fifth Dangerous During pregnancy?
According to March of Dimes most of the time unborn babies are not harmed if the mother contracts fifth disease during pregnancy. However there is a small chance. If you're like me and you're wanting to know the exact is really hard to say. I've spent many hours pouring over medical journals I found on the internet and calling March of Dimes and hitting up the library for information and unfortunately I have found no real consensus on the exact chance of complications. I have seen articles that claim as much as 33% chance of complications if contracted during early pregnancy and I have seen other articles that claim the chance is as low as 5% . My conclusion is that there is very little known about the effects of fifths disease during pregnancy.

What can I do to prevent Fifth Disease
There is very little a person can do to prevent fifth disease other than your typical disease prevention. Washing your hands frequently and avoid drinking after or sharing of utensils. Fifth disease is viral and there are no vaccines to prevent.

I have (had) Fifth Disease and I'm pregnant, what now?
There is no treatment for fifth disease however your baby will need to be monitored. March of Dimes suggests frequent monitoring and ultrasounds once a week or every other week for up to 12 weeks after you have been diagnosed. Part of me writing this blog is to really stress the importance of this knowledge. After researching I called my doctor back and asked questions. I was not being monitored as I should be. This was partly oversight on the nurse's part. If you have been diagnosed and your doctor is not monitoring you or they suggest you waiting until your prenatal visit and it is weeks away...please contact your care provider with your concerns. While the chances of complications are supposedly low it is best to be proactive. If your baby were to become ill with anemia (a complication of fifth disease) there is a chance of saving baby. Do not wait. Your baby should be monitored closely so that you and your doctor would be able to discuss a treatment plan if your baby were to become ill.

Can I catch it again?
Fifth disease cannot be contracted more than once. If you think you have been exposed your doctor can do a blood test to see if you have been infected recently or if you are immune to the disease due to previous exposure or infection.

I hope what little bit of knowledge I have found and gathered into one place is useful for you. I wish I knew exactly what to say or what the outcome for myself would be but unfortunately I do not yet know. I will be updating this blog as I learn more and as I am monitored throughout this pregnancy so that I may share information with other mothers who have received this diagnoses.

*Updates (Submitted by Emily Smit)
According to the most recent studies (cited in paper #2), the rate of vertical transmission in parvovirus B19-infected pregnant women is 16% *before 20 weeks' gestation*. It only rises to 35% after 20 weeks. So thankfully the odds are on your side here!

Overall, 3% of women experience fetal complications. The risk of fetal complications is higher during the first 20 weeks of gestation, and highest between 9 and 16 weeks' gestation. During the first 20 weeks, the risk of miscarriage is 9%. But keep in mind that your overall risk of miscarriage (for any reason) during the first trimester is about 15% (if you're under age 35).

Interestingly paper #1 also says that women who've had three or more children are 7.5 times more likely to have an acute case of fifth disease, so maybe that's why you suffered so much!

She left two more resources I'd like to share!



2 Responses to “Pregnant and Diagnosed with Fifth Disease”

  1. Thank you for the info! I have been thinking of you a lot and praying that you have a healthy baby! It is interesting to me that as supposedly advance as we are in medicine and technology there is still so much that is just unknown and that can be very scary.

  2. Thanks, Olivia! I go tomorrow to my first appointment post diagnosis. I will know more then!!! I'll keep everyone updated.