Sixth disease in pregnancy

There are many women who are afraid of contracting infectious diseases during their pregnancy. Fully justified fear: some relatively widespread infections could cause serious problems both for the fetus and for the mother herself. Among these also the sixth disease.

In this respect, however, sixth disease does not represent a very high risk. In fact, the probability of contracting it by adults is already quite rare and, in most cases, once contracted, the child to be born will not be harmed.

In any case, in order to deal with it without getting caught up in fears, it is important for the woman to know the risks and possible consequences in order to know what to do if she suspects she has become infected.

La sesta malatta (infant roseola)

Sixth disease (roseola infantum) is an exanthematous disease, i.e. an infectious disease that causes skin rashes. For this reason it is also known as critical exanthema, exanthema subitum, three-day fever.

It is particularly frequent especially in autumn and spring. It is caused by a virus of the Herpes family. It is transmitted by respiratory secretions. It is accompanied by various symptoms. There are no specific therapies to counteract it, except those to calm the fever.

It affects infants and young children up to more or less two / three years of age. However, it is not excluded that it may also be contracted by an adult, therefore also a pregnant woman.

Sixth disease symptoms

During early childhood, especially in the first two years of life, about 90% of children contract sixth disease without having problems and without having any consequences.

  • It essentially manifests itself with a fever, even high, which persists for two or three days.
  • It is accompanied by rather common symptoms such as sore throat, diarrhea or nausea, fever, muscle aches, headache, abdominal pain, irritability and others.
  • As occurs in other infectious diseases, not infrequently there is an enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck, groin and armpits.
  • Once the fever has disappeared, reddish macules and papules appear on the skin, spread above all on the trunk and limbs, which tend to diminish and regress after a few to a maximum period of about 48 hours.

As we have said, it is a very common infectious pathology, which resolves spontaneously and is devoid of particular risks.

How the infection occurs

Infection can occur by contact with saliva. The average incubation period of the virus that causes this disease, human herpes virus type 6B (HHV-6B), is about one week.

Its transmissibility is maximum during the feverish phase. Very rarely, the disease can be transmitted from mother to fetus, while a probable risk of contagion through breastfeeding has never been confirmed.

The moment in which the probability of contagion is greatest is that of the first days of the feverish state, before the rash appears. Precisely for this reason, the spread of this disease is quite easy because, since its exanthematic phase has not yet begun, it can be mistaken for a passing fever, typical of childhood.

Even adults, therefore also pregnant women, are at risk of contagion: however, it must be borne in mind that anyone who contracted the virus in childhood can be considered immune, as often happens.

In the case – however rare – in which the newborn is infected by the mother in the prenatal phase, hospitalization may be necessary.

However, it is an event that usually resolves itself in a few days, without leaving any consequences.

What to do in case of a suspected infection

Even if the disease usually resolves spontaneously without complications and without particular problems after 2 days from the exanthema, the pregnant woman must first of all immediately consult her doctor or trusted gynecologist both when the exanthemic phase is already underway and in case of suspected contagion: the doctor will suggest the best course of action.

However, it is important to bear in mind that there is no type of targeted prevention, or vaccine against sixth disease.

Consequently, to reduce the risk of contagion, it is advisable for the pregnant woman who has not already contracted the disease in childhood to avoid close contact with children and newborns, especially if they show feverish symptoms, malaise and skin manifestations.

Pregnant women who are already mothers of one or more two/three year old children,

  • must pay attention to whether or not there is an epidemic of rash infections or other childhood diseases in the kindergarten they go to,
  • if so, they must avoid sharing cutlery and glasses with the little one and wash their hands thoroughly after touching it,
  • they must also inform their trusted doctor who, if necessary, will order some checks and checks.

The risks of the woman who has contracted the disease

What are the risks that the expectant mother can face?

If contracted during pregnancy, sixth disease can also cause fever, muscle tension and stiffness in the limbs. Just like other infectious diseases, although rarely, sixth disease can also cause fetal malformations and the risk of miscarriage   , meningoencephalitis and fulminant hepatitis.

However, unlike other infectious diseases, serious complications of sixth disease in pregnancy are very rare: for example, rubella is considered much more risky during pregnancy and it is no coincidence that young women are advised to get vaccinated before planning a pregnancy.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *