Fifth Disease


The information provided below is for readers based in the United States of America. Readers outside of the United States of America should seek the information from local sources.

What is fifth disease?

Fifth disease is an infectious condition that is caused by a virus called parvovirus B19. The main symptom is a mild rash that gives a slapped cheek appearance on the face and can be itchy particularly on the soles of the feet.

How common is fifth disease during pregnancy?

Fifth disease is more common in children than in adults, but since pregnant women often are around children, they are at high risk of exposure to parvovirus B19.

How is fifth during pregnancy diagnosed?

Fifth disease is diagnosed based on your history of having cold-like symptoms followed 2-3 days later by rash that usually lasts from 7 to 10 days. During pregnancy, it is possible to do a blood test to reveal whether you have ever been infected with parvovirus B19 and whether or not you are immune.

Does fifth cause problems during pregnancy?

Fifth disease will give you mild rash that gives a slapped cheek appearance on the face and also spreads to the arms and legs, including the soles of the feet, where it can be especially itchy. The rash usually lasts from 7 to 10 days, during which time it also can spread to the chest, back, and buttocks. Prior to the rash, you may experience a headache, runny nose, or fever.

Does fifth disease during pregnancy cause problems for the baby?

About one third of maternal parvovirus B19 infections are estimated to spread to the developing baby. In about 3 percent of pregnant women with fifth disease, however, the virus may cause a spontaneous abortion, or severe anemia or other serious complications in the newborn. Most of the times, however, fifth disease has no consequences for the baby, so long as you take medication to control the fever. Some studies have suggested that fever during pregnancy can increase a babys risk of having congenital defects involving the heart and other organs. Also, a recent study identified maternal fever as possible risk for the baby developing autism spectrum disorder.

What to consider about taking medications when you are pregnant or breastfeeding:

  • Any risks to yourself and your baby if you do not treat fifth disease. Generally there is little risk so long as you treat any fever that develops.
  • The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are pregnant
  • The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are breastfeeding

What should I know about using medication to treat fifth disease during pregnancy?

The main medication that youll need is acetaminophen or paracetamol to lower fever, if a fever develops. Both of these drugs are safe during pregnancy.

Who should NOT stop taking medication for fifth disease during pregnancy?

Most pregnant women who need acetaminophen or paracetamol to eliminate fever due to fifth disease should not stop taking the drug, because there is concern that fever could be harmful to the developing baby. The exception consists of women who have liver problems but, having liver problems in the first place, already makes successful pregnancy very challenging.

What should I know about choosing a medication for fifth disease during pregnancy?

You may find Pregistrys expert reports about the individual medications to treat fifth disease here. Additional information can also be found in the sources listed at the end of this report.

What should I know about taking a medication for my fifth disease when I am breastfeeding?

Acetaminophen and paracetamol, which are given for fever, are thought to be relatively safe to babies whose mothers breastfeed.

What alternative therapies besides medications can I use to treat my disease during pregnancy?

Oatmeal baths can alleviate the itching from the rash of fifth disease.

What can I do for myself and my baby when I have fifth disease during pregnancy?

Cooperate with your healthcare providers in order to minimize risk to yourself and the child.

Resources for fifth disease in pregnancy:

For more information about fifth disease during and after pregnancy, contact (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or read the following articles:


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General information

It is very common for women to worry about having a miscarriage or giving birth to a child with a birth defect while they are pregnant. Many decisions that women make about their health during pregnancy are made with these concerns in mind.

For many women these concerns are very real. As many as 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect. These rates are considered the background population risk, which means they do not take into consideration anything about the health of the mom, the medications she is taking, or the family history of the mom or the baby’s dad. A number of different things can increase these risks, including taking certain medications during pregnancy.

It is known that most medications, including over-the-counter medications, taken during pregnancy do get passed on to the baby. Fortunately, most medicines are not harmful to the baby and can be safely taken during pregnancy. But there are some that are known to be harmful to a baby’s normal development and growth, especially when they are taken during certain times of the pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to talk with your doctor or midwife about any medications you are taking, ideally before you even try to get pregnant.

If a doctor other than the one caring for your pregnancy recommends that you start a new medicine while you are pregnant, it is important that you let them know you are pregnant.

If you do need to take a new medication while pregnant, it is important to discuss the possible risks the medicine may pose on your pregnancy with your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand the benefits and the risks of taking the medicine.

Ultimately, the decision to start, stop, or change medications during pregnancy is up to you to make, along with input from your doctor or midwife. If you do take medications during pregnancy, be sure to keep track of all the medications you are taking.

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