From one pregnant mama to another, the panic is real and understandable. We are three years into the COVID-19 pandemic and reports of a new disease called monkeypox spreading can be stressful — another thing that we must protect ourselves and our babies from. But it’s okay fellow mamas, knowledge is key! Understanding what we are up against is half the battle. Let’s break down what monkeypox is and look at ways we can protect ourselves and our little ones.
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is in the same virus family as smallpox. It’s named monkeypox because it was discovered in research monkeys in the 1950s1. The monkeypox virus is quickly spreading in the U.S. and has been declared a health emergency by the Biden administration and the World Health Organization. However, there is limited data regarding the effects of monkeypox infection in pregnancy. We still don’t know a lot about how monkeypox affects pregnancy. It is unknown if pregnant women are more likely to get the virus or if it is more severe in pregnancy2. Anyone can be infected with monkeypox regardless of age or gender. Monkeypox is not usually a deadly disease. Most people with monkeypox will fully recover. However, pregnant women should talk with their medical provider if they have concerns. So, what should we be on the lookout for? Let’s take a look:
Signs and Symptoms:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
A few days after the fever sets in, the patient will get fluid-filled bumps on their skin. These tend to show up concentrated on the face and limbs, including the palms and soles of the feet. The infection usually pops up around 1-2 weeks before symptoms appear and lasts about 2-4 weeks3.
It’s important to note that this virus can spread from person to person via contact with contaminated materials such as bedding or towels, bodily fluids, close contact with someone who has monkeypox, and touching the sores of someone who has monkeypox. And just so you know, monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted infection. Monkeypox is spreading in environments where people are in close congregations.
So, what else should expecting women need to know about this disease? The monkeypox virus can transfer to the fetus via the pregnant mother. The main risk factor is that it can cause stillborn death. 4 Rest assured, this very rarely happens. However, if you are worried about your risk, then you can talk to your medical provider. They can offer safe treatment options for you. Remember, monkeypox and smallpox are similar viruses. This means that that the smallpox vaccine can protect you from monkeypox.2 This vaccine is stated to be safe for pregnant women as well, so speak to your provider for more information and to see if this is the correct treatment for you. Now that we know what the virus can do, let’s look at what you can do to prevent yourself and your little ones from getting the virus.
How to protect yourself:
- Sanitize surfaces
- Wear masks
- Wash your hands
- Don’t try on clothes/wear new clothes without washing
- Consider a mask and social distancing in public or around sick people
This is a lot of information and just another thing to go through. You may be feeling a lot of emotions at once but know this, you are not alone and that your emotions are valid. Being a mama is hard, plus having to protect your loved ones from these scary sounding diseases is a whole other ballgame. We can do it! Staying updated with the latest health information provided on the CDC website and talking to your provider are the first steps to safety. And if you do get monkeypox, don’t panic! Talk to your provider, they will walk you through treatment options and guide you on your labor delivery plans. Stay alert mamas, “knowing is half the battle”.
- CDC, What is Monkeypox?, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/about/index.html#:~:text=Monkeypox%20was%20discovered%20in%201958,the%20virus%20and%20infect%20people.
- CDC, Monkeypox and Pregnancy, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/clinicians/pregnancy.html#:~:text=Data%20regarding%20monkeypox%20infection%20in,contact%20during%20and%20after%20birth.
- CDC, Key Characteristics for Identifying Monkeypox, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/clinicians/clinical-recognition.html
- Carr, Lindsey, Contemporary OB/GYN, Clinical Considerations for Monkeypox in Pregnancy, 2022, https://www.contemporaryobgyn.net/view/clinical-considerations-for-monkeypox-in-pregnancy