Slapped cheek is a common virus most often affecting children. It’s usually a mild illness with no complications. However, if a pregnant woman catches slapped cheek, it can cause complications and affect her unborn baby. A mum-to-be has written a moving Facebook post to make other parents aware of the potential dangers of slapped cheek in pregnancy.
Lula Besana’s son fell ill with slapped cheek. Here’s her story, which she posted up on Facebook:
“This morning I had to go to the Fetal Medicine unit at the University College London Hospital. When I was in my first trimester, Gio fell ill with Slapped Cheeks. It’s a mild disease that usually kids 4-15 get. Around 60% of adults are immune to the virus but the other 40% never had it as a child. I was part of that 40%.
Most adults don’t even realise they have it,apart from when they get the famous red cheeks, and show mild symptoms beforehand.
If contracted in the first trimester though, can lead to severe and sometimes fatal consequences for the baby.
The virus can go into the baby’s bone marrow through the placenta and once there, affects the production of red blood cells making the baby anaemic. When anemia gets too severe, intrauterine blood transfusions will be needed to save him/her.
I have been having scans every 2 weeks for the past 3 months to keep an eye on possible symptoms of baby developing anaemia. Last Wednesday, my lovely consultant got some high readings while checking the baby’s blood flow using a doppler. He was 90% sure that it was due to the baby’s position, the fact she wasn’t staying still and he had to push a bit harder to get the readings. But there was that 10% and he decided the best course of action was to send me to London for a second opinion.
So at 9 am this morning I was on a rush hour train to St Pancras Station, scared and with 1000s of questions, doubts and fears crossing my mind.
Was met by a lovely Midwife and a lovely Doctor who gave us the news we were hoping to get : readings today were perfectly in the normal range and it is very unlikely that she will develop anaemia at this stage.
I will still have to see my Consultant till I am 28 weeks, but today’s visit has lifted a heavy rock that was on my chest for a while.
We have spent the past weeks scared about what could happen.
So please, if you fear your child might have slapped cheeks, don’t brush it under the rug because ‘it’s just a mild childhood illness’ , let the preschool, nursery, school they attend know about it and ask them to warn the other parents. Not everyone announces pregnancy early or shows early!
It is important that whoever is expecting goes to have blood test done to check immunity. It makes the difference from having the chance to be monitored and make sure that Drs can act in case of a problem, and maybe giving birth to a very poorly baby.
What is slapped cheek?
Slapped cheek (also known as fifth disease and parvovirus B19) is a common viral infection most often affecting children, but it can be caught by people of any age. It usually causes a bright red rash on the cheeks, which is where the name comes from.
The red cheek rash can look serious, but slapped cheek is usually a mild infection that clears up by itself within one to three weeks.
Once you have had the virus you are immune for life.
You may not notice any early symptoms but common signs to look out for are:
- a slightly high temperature (fever) of around 38C (100.4F)
- a runny nose
- a sore throat
- a headache
- an upset stomach
- feeling generally unwell
The virus is most contagious during the early days.
Adults may also notice joint pain or stiffness, which can continue for several weeks.
After a few days the characteristic red rash will appear on the cheeks (some adults do not get this). The rash can also spread to other parts of the body, such as the chest, stomach, arms and legs. By the time the rash develops the virus is no longer contagious.
The rash often has a raised, lace-like appearance and may be itchy. – NHS
How is slapped cheek passed on to others?
Slapped cheek is transmitted in similar ways to cold and flu – through inhaling droplets after an infected person coughs or sneezes, or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth.
It is very difficult to prevent the spread of slapped cheek as people are most contagious before the rash and any obvious symptoms appear.
Washing hands frequently can help stop infection spreading.
Slapped cheek in pregnancy
Infection in pregnancy, particularly early pregnancy, carries a risk of causing miscarriage, stillbirth or other complications; however, this risk is small and most pregnant women will already be immune – NHS
If you are concerned or worried that you might have been in contact with someone who has slapped cheek and are not sure if you are immune, always seek medical advice from your doctor.