People should not get the rubella vaccine during pregnancy. If a person plans to become pregnant, they should get vaccinated beforehand to ensure their immunity to rubella.

The vaccine for rubella is the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. It provides immunity to these conditions and protects both the baby and carrier during pregnancy.

People cannot get the MMR vaccine during pregnancy, as there is a small risk of causing complications to the baby. A person considering becoming pregnant should speak with their doctor about getting the vaccine before pregnancy.

This article reviews the rubella vaccine and pregnancy. It looks at the causes of rubella, its symptoms, and how to reduce the risk of infection.

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The rubella vaccine is a live vaccine. This means it contains a weakened version of the virus. Because the virus is still active, live vaccines are not safe for pregnant people. There is a small chance they may pass the virus to the baby.

Rubella can cause serious complications to the baby during pregnancy, including miscarriage and stillbirth. Having rubella during pregnancy can cause congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) in the baby, leading to other defects, including:

  • low birth weight
  • cataracts
  • deafness
  • heart defects
  • spleen and liver damage
  • skin rash at birth
  • brain damage and intellectual disabilities
  • inflammation of the lungs
  • glaucoma
  • hormone and thyroid troubles

What is rubella?

Rubella is a rare viral infection. Symptoms are usually mild and resolve on their own within 10 days from onset. People also refer to rubella as German measles, even though it does not result from the same virus that causes measles.

Rubella is typically mild in adults. However, developing an infection during pregnancy can put unborn babies at serious risk of miscarriage or defects. Rubella is dangerous to the baby during the first 18 weeks of pregnancy.

A rubella infection during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy can significantly increase the risk of miscarriage.

Learn more about rubella exposure during pregnancy.

While many vaccines that contain inactivated viruses are safe during pregnancy, pregnant people should not get the MMR vaccine. This is because the MMR vaccine contains a weakened form of the living virus that can pass down to the baby.

People who are planning pregnancy should speak with their doctor to make sure they receive the vaccine before getting pregnant. After receiving the vaccine, a person should avoid getting pregnant for at least four weeks.

Most people only experience mild symptoms of rubella. Around 25–50% of people with a rubella infection do not develop any symptoms.

The symptoms of rubella may include:

Learn more about rubella.

If a person experiences any symptoms of rubella or suspects exposure during pregnancy, they should contact a doctor immediately. Doctors will perform tests to determine if a person has rubella.

A pregnant person who suspects exposure to rubella should avoid contact with other pregnant people.

A virus called togavirus causes rubella, which spreads through droplets that people release in the environment. This can happen when someone coughs, talks, sneezes, or shares food or drinks with someone who has an infection.

It may take 2–3 weeks from the time of infection before a person develops symptoms of rubella. People can transmit the illness one week before symptoms develop and up to four days after the first skin rash appears.

There is no specific treatment for rubella, and symptoms typically go away on their own. Resting and staying hydrated can help with recovery.

Doctors may recommend taking over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol to reduce discomfort from fevers and aches.

Doctors may also monitor the health of the unborn baby using an ultrasound. This helps them look for any potential defects.

A person may not have received the MMR vaccine and not have rubella immunity. However, there are still some steps they can take to stay safe during pregnancy.

For example, pregnant people should avoid contact with anyone who has signs or symptoms of infection, such as a rubella skin rash.

A pregnant person should immediately contact a doctor if they have been in contact with someone who may have rubella. This can help reduce their risk of rubella complications.

The most effective way to prevent rubella is to get the MMR vaccine. The vaccine is about 97% effective in preventing rubella.

If a person has never received the MMR vaccine, they should consider immunization. The vaccine is usually part of the routine immunization program children typically undergo.

If someone is unsure about their vaccination history, they can speak with their doctor. The doctor can check a person’s medical records to see whether they received the MMR vaccine.

Rubella is caused by the togavirus. It is a contagious viral infection that typically causes mild symptoms in adults. Symptoms usually resolve without treatment within 10 days after they appear.

Rubella can cause serious defects in babies during the first 18 weeks of pregnancy. In some cases, it may lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.

The MMR vaccine can provide immunity to rubella. However, people cannot receive this vaccine while they are pregnant. If a person is planning to become pregnant, they should consider speaking with their doctor. The doctor can check their medical records to determine if they received the MMR vaccine during childhood or if they need immunization.