CAN I STILL BREASTFEED WHILE HAVING SHINGLES?

01 April 2018


Last month I was diagnosed with Herpes Zoster also known as Shingles. To be honest I never knew a  disease ever existed. Shingles come from the very same virus as chicken pox. For those who had chicken pox before, the virus still remains in your body but in a hibernating phase in your nerve cells. So if you caught Shingles it means that the Varicella Zoster virus (VZV) is active again and instead of catching poxes all over your body, you'll get small like skin rashes with blisters at one side of your body or your face. So is Shingles contagious as chicken pox as well? The answer is YES. If yes then could I still breastfeed? Is that still a question to ask though? Well yes, keep on reading to know more.


Shingles are said contagious and are they that serious that I'll need a week of MC?  Well, it seems so when my doctor instantly gave me MC's as soon as she saw the rashes. Shingles could last within a week up to months but mostly it takes a week for the contagious phase to heal. Its progression phases start with pain in your nerve cells, followed by a cluster of small bumps which then turns into blisters that will soon open and dry up then leads to scabbing or crusting. Once it crusts the Shingles are no longer contagious but still ain't fully healed, you can still experience pain. Some even still experience it after a year. This is because they say the nerve cell contaminated is damaged.

For those who never had the chicken pox before would have a high risk catching it and as most of you know, the elder you get and finally get chicken pox, the more serious it gets. The interesting part of Shingles is only contagious by touch. It's not transferable by air so supposedly I can still go to work of I got it covered but the worst part of it is that it's very painful. The feel that I felt was like my veins being stretched so tight it might just snap. It's that bad that it made me cry when the pain attacks and just a brush movement to it will make your legs weak to bear the pain.

How did I get it? I still don't know, the Doctor said I might have been in contact with someone who was having this but I'm not sure of that. Usually, older people will have a high risk of getting Shingles. I think its postpartum Shingles, I was googling more information about Shingles when I came across postpartum shingles which to my shock was very common among those who recently gave birth. This happened because our immune system is at its weakest and could also cause from stress. And yes I was under a lot of stress due to my condition with family and work which most of you all know now.

Anyways, the main point here is could I still breastfeed my baby when I had Shingles? A few days before I knew I had Shingles, my right breast was hurting a lot at the side under the armpit area, it felt like it was burning but there wasn't anything showing during that time. So I thought I might be having mastitis. The pain went unbearable overnight and when I woke up I noticed a few pimple-like rashes showing on my right back almost near the armpit area reaching to the side of my breasts. I really thought it was pimples cause I grew a lot of them during my pregnancy at now there's like a million scars. I even asked my mum and she thought it was pimples as well.

I came to know it wasn't pimples because my son had a checkup that morning and I took the opportunity to ask the nurse what it was. They didn't really say what it was but then said I had a skin condition and told me to see a doctor. Since the pain was getting worse and I couldn't lift my arm, I gave in and went to the doctor. When I lifted my shirt, the doctor instantly said that you got Herpes. I was so clueless at that moment. She wrote the name down on paper and gave it to me for further research by Google. While at that time she just gave a simple explanation and what medication I had to take.

The treatment for Herpes Zoster a.k.a Shingles were anti-virus pills which had to be consumed 4 times a day for a week. And the best part was 1 pill cost RM7. The overall cost of medicine and etc was RM250+! Thank goodness I received my salary already but already broke in one day. Since I was in much pain I didn't really wanna make a fuss. All I wanted was to go home and take my shirt off. It damn hurts. The real problem with this situation actually was that I was breastfeeding and the Dr advised to have no direct contact with my Shingles until the Shingles gets better.

So after I went to the clinic, I instantly pumped my milk as my breast were already swollen. The whole day my son kept on crying because he prefers to be directly fed which caused me to be in a lot more stress and hopeless hearing him cry. So I kept on reading about Shingles to find out more about it. Shingles are only transferable when it's in contact which I already knew. I also came to know that there were other mothers who had the same experience which is known as postpartum shingles. As I kept reading more on this topic, I came across few articles and experiences of other mothers that they had doctors advise them to still keep on breastfeeding to avoid engorgement which could lead to another serious problem later.

The trick it was to keep it covered as long as you don't have it on your nipple then you're just fine to breastfeed. I actually had a bit under my breast area but it didn't seem to grow much as it did at the back of my body. I also read that breast milk actually have cure properties for this but I'm not sure if the was scientifically proven. Because I easily leak milk and had milk dripping below my breast for quite a number of times and the Shingles below my breast never really grew big, but I still had it covered just in case. At first, I doubted if I should still to try and breastfeed since my son was only 3 months, it's like too young to get chicken pox but then I came across a few other articles saying that babies usually still have protection from this virus which makes them immune to it since from the womb, but it's not scientifically proven and there were no further studies on this.

But I was in a lot of pain already and engorged breast worsen the condition. My baby also kept on crying so I tried to convince myself to take the risk since some mothers went through the same thing and their babies were fine. So I had to take a lot of precaution steps, I got a big bottle of hand sanitizers, cotton pads and surgical tape as well. Hand sanitizer was to make sure I always had clean hands, I also kept washing them as well before and after I touch my baby. Cotton pads and a surgical tape was to help keep the Shingles covered so my baby won't accidentally touch it while breastfeeding. It was actually a lot of work as I washed 4 times a day and changed the dressing 4 times as well. I used up a lot of cotton pads and surgical tape as well to make sure it was completely sealed after applying cream especially the little one under my breast area. I had tape cover it completely.

So yes, this means that I did actually breastfeed my son throughout the week. I only pumped milk for one night and continued to breastfeed after doing a bit of research on this. What made me sure to take the risk? Well, my doctor actually, even though she told me not to direct feed but thinking again the way she answered my questions didn't really convince me to her words. I asked her if I could still breastfeed my baby after taking the Shingles medication and to my disbelieve, she actually googled the answer in front of me. She even told me to read up on Shingles when I got back home. So that's exactly what I did, I'll have done it anyway even if she didn't tell me so.

Then did my baby get the chicken pox? His bum turned out red and had a bit of rash after my Shingles were cured a week later. I was so worried he caught chicken pox, turns out it's not, it was just diaper rash which was quite bad but my son is a tough one. He doesn't even cry even though his rash looked pretty bad. So the answer to the big question was NO. He did not get chicken pox even if I breastfed him throughout my journey to recovery.

The key to this was hygiene and make sure that the rashes and blisters were properly covered. Try your best not to let your little one have much contact with you and sanitize your hand every time before and after you hold your baby. You'll just need to be extra careful and everything should be fine.

So that's my experience with Shingles, don't know about the rest of the mothers out there. Hope this write-up helped you a bit if you're looking for answers as well.

Till then peeps

Post a comment

Thanks for leaving your thoughts, message me on Facebook for quick responses.