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 and eyes.
- 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 minute.
- 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 exposure.
- 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 pregnancies.
- 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 choice.
- Inform your doctor if you have fever, runny eyes, swollen glands, and a rash.