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Rubella and pregnancy

By Hannah Chira | September 8th 2012

Rubella, or German measles in pregnancy may cause serious defects to the child, writes Hannah Chira

Unknown to many, rubella, commonly known as German measles, is a dangerous infection that can cause a horde of disabilities to your unborn child.

It is, therefore, important to have a rubella test before trying to conceive as getting infected when you are pregnant can harm your baby, particularly in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Rubella infection is known to seriously cause damage to the baby’s heart, eyes and ears. It can also cause a miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth defects in unborn babies, such as: Brain damage, heart defects, cataracts and is the main cause of deaf-blindness.

For women who have had a rubella vaccination, or the infection itself, you will probably be immune to the infection for life, but it is important to check before you become pregnant. Usually you will have your blood tested and in the event that you are not immune, your doctor or nurse will vaccinate you. You should have this injection at least one month before you start trying to get pregnant.

Rubella caught during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy is referred to as congenital rubella syndrome and it is transmitted to the baby through the placenta.

Rubella is now a rare condition because people were either vaccinated at school-going age, or as part of the childhood MMR vaccine. Even so, it is transmitted by coughs and sneezes, and is contagious. Being immune to rubella ensures that your baby is very unlikely to be affected if you come into contact with the infection.


If you are not immune, you cannot have the jab while pregnant because the vaccination contains a live virus, which could cause rubella infection in the baby. It is for this same reason, you should not become pregnant for at least a month after having your rubella jab.

Symptoms of rubella are mild and include fever, headache, joint pains and sore throat. A distinctive red-pink rash usually appears shortly after the glands swell.

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