To determine the factors associated with an increased risk of developing varicella-zoster virus (VZV) pneumonia during pregnancy, a case-control analysis was done in which 18 pregnant women with VZV pneumonia were compared with 72 matched control subjects. VZV infection was identified clinically, and VZV pneumonia was diagnosed by dyspnea and findings on chest radiographs. Of 347 pregnant women with VZV infection, 18 (5.2%) had pneumonia treated with acyclovir, and none died. Mean gestational age at rash onset was 25.8 plus minus 8.8 weeks for patients with pneumonia and 17.7 +/- 10.3 weeks for control subjects, which was not significant in the multivariable model. Women with VZV pneumonia were significantly more likely to be current smokers (odds ratio [OR], 5.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.6-16.7) and to have > or = 100 skin lesions (OR, 15.9; 95% CI, 1.9-130.2). Pregnant women with VZV infection may be more likely to develop varicella pneumonia if they are smokers or manifest > or = 100 skin lesions.