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Rubella and pregnancy

Rubella, also called German measles, is an infection that causes mild flu-like symptoms
and a rash on the skin. Only about half of people infected with rubella have these symptoms.
Others have no symptoms and may not even know theyre infected.
Rubella is only harmful to an unborn baby in the womb. If you get infected during pregnancy,
rubella can cause serious problems for your baby.
Rubella has been eliminated in the United States because of routine vaccination of children.
Vaccination protects a person against rubella for life. Only five cases of rubella were reported in
this country between 2001 and 2004. But women who were never vaccinated as children can get
infected.
Rubella is common in many other countries. Travelers can bring it into the United States, or you
can get it when travelling outside the country.
Its important to get vaccinated for rubella. Talk to your health care provider to make sure youre
protected against it.

What are signs and symptoms of rubella?


About half of people with rubella have signs and symptoms, and half dont. Rubella is usually
mild with flu-like symptoms followed by a rash. The rash often lasts about 3 days. Flu-like
symptoms include:

Low-grade fever

Headache

Runny nose

Red eyes

Swollen glands

Muscle or joint pain

What causes rubella?


Rubella is caused by a virus (a tiny organism that can make you sick). Its very contagious and is
spread through the air from an infected persons cough or sneeze.

What problems can rubella cause during pregnancy?


Rubella can be a serious threat to your pregnancy, especially during the first and second
trimesters. Having rubella during pregnancy increases the risk of:

Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) This is a condition that happens when a mother
passes rubella to her baby during pregnancy. It may cause a baby to be born with one or
more birth defects, including heart problems, microcephaly, vision problems, hearing
problems, intellectual disability, bone problems, growth problems, and liver and spleen
damage.

Miscarriage This is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Stillbirth This is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Premature birth This is birth that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Can you pass rubella to your baby during pregnancy?


Yes. The best way to protect your baby is to make sure youre immune to rubella. Immune means
being protected from an infection. If you're immune to an infection, it means you can't get the
infection.
Most likely youre immune to rubella because you were vaccinated as a child or you had the
illness during childhood. A blood test can tell whether or not youre immune to rubella. If youre
thinking about getting pregnant and arent sure if youre immune, talk to your health care
provider about getting a blood test.
If youre not immune to rubella, heres what you can do to help protect your baby:
Before pregnancy. Get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Wait 1 month before
trying to get pregnant after getting the shot.
During pregnancy. You can be tested at a prenatal visit to make sure youre immune to rubella.
If youre not immune, the MMR vaccine isnt recommended during pregnancy. But there are
things you can do to help prevent getting infected with rubella:

Stay away from anyone who has the infection.

Tell your health care provider right away if youve been in contact with someone who has
rubella.

After pregnancy. Get the MMR vaccination after you give birth. Being protected from the
infection means you cant pass it to your baby before she gets her own MMR vaccination at

about 12 months. It also prevents you from passing rubella to your baby during a future
pregnancy.

What are the chances of passing rubella to your baby during pregnancy?
Youre more likely to pass rubella to your baby the earlier you become infected during
pregnancy. For example:

If you get rubella in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, your baby has about an 8 to 9 in 10
chance (85 percent) of getting infected.

If you get rubella at 13 to 16 weeks of pregnancy, your baby has about a 1 in 2 chance
(50 percent) of being infected.

If you get rubella at the end or your second trimester or later, your baby has about a 1 in 4
chance (25 percent) of getting infected.

If you have rubella during pregnancy, your babys provider carefully monitors your baby after
birth to catch any problems early.