Rubella or German measles in pregnancy is rare since
many women either get vaccinated during their adolescence
or have been exposed to this infection during childhood.
Nevertheless before becoming pregnant it is best to
get yourself checked against rubella with a simple
blood test. Rubella is known to cause greater harm
during pregnancy than at other times.
How does rubella or German
measles affect pregnancy?
• Rubella is an infectious disease that can
cause severe harm to your baby. Known to afflict with
dire consequences especially in the first trimester,
the effect of German measles in pregnancy tapers down
as the pregnancy progresses.
• If contracted in early pregnancy this disease
is known to affect fetal brain, heart, ears, skin
• Infection in the first month of pregnancy
translates to a higher chance of baby developing defects
(more than 35%) versus in the 3rd month where the
risk drops to 10-15%. Subsequently the risk is very
• For the virus to carry out its work the mother
must come down with the illness proper; exposure alone
will not cause the damage to the fetus.
• The symptoms that manifests 2-3 weeks following
exposure are mild to being symptom-free: slight fever,
swollen glands, nausea and vomiting, and a rash a
day later which can go unnoticed
• Apart from birth defects German measles can
also cause spontaneous abortion
Need to Know
• If you are unsure about your immunity against
rubella, a simple test –a rubella antibody titer which
measures the antibody level in the bloodstream is
routinely performed during the first prenatal visit.
If you aren't immune, it is very important to avoid
• Generally it is best to avoid immunization
with any live vaccine, rubella included, around the
time of conception and during pregnancy as it carries
a small risk to the baby. If you need to get vaccinated
get it done beforehand (3 months) and use a contraceptive
for 1-3 months afterwards
• If you are vaccinated and accidentally conceive
before the window period is over, don't worry. Theoretically
the risk of damage is there but there are no reported
cases supporting this claim as yet.
• If you did not receive vaccination and did
not come down with the rubella infection during your
pregnancy term (good news for sure) ensure you receive
vaccination after delivery as a safeguard for future
• If a mother is actively infected during the
first 3-4 months, genetic counseling or discontinuing
the pregnancy is the route most often taken. An open
discussion with the doctor is necessary to address
possible risks and concerns before making any decision.
Since the level of fetal deformity is highest during
early pregnancy abortion becomes the treatment of
• Inform your doctor if you have fever, runny
eyes, swollen glands, and a rash.