Pregnancy and Rubella

pregnant woman sitting

Rubella is very dangerous for a pregnant woman and her developing baby. Anyone who is not vaccinated against rubella is at risk of getting the disease. Although rubella was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2004, cases can occur when unvaccinated people are exposed to infected people, mostly through international travel. Women should make sure they are protected from rubella before they get pregnant.

Infection with rubella virus causes the most severe damage when the mother is infected early in pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks (first trimester). During 2005-2018, 15 babies with CRS have been reported in the United States.

Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS)

Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) is a condition that occurs in a developing baby in the womb whose mother is infected with the rubella virus. Pregnant women who contract rubella are at risk for miscarriage or stillbirth, and their developing babies are at risk for severe birth defects with devastating, lifelong consequences. CRS can affect almost everything in the developing baby’s body.

The most common birth defects from CRS can include:

  • Deafness
  • Cataracts
  • Heart defects
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Liver and spleen damage
  • Low birth weight
  • Skin rash at birth

Less common complications from CRS can include:

  • Glaucoma
  • Brain damage
  • Thyroid and other hormone problems
  • Inflammation of the lungs

Although specific symptoms can be treated, there is no cure for CRS. Since there is no cure, it is important for women to get vaccinated before they get pregnant.

Vaccine Recommendations

Women who are planning to become pregnant should check with their doctor to make sure they are vaccinated before they get pregnant.

Because MMR vaccine is an attenuated (weakened) live virus vaccine, pregnant women who are not vaccinated should wait to get MMR vaccine until after they have given birth.

Adult women of childbearing age should avoid getting pregnant for at least four weeks after receiving MMR vaccine.

Pregnant women should NOT get MMR vaccine.

If you get rubella or are exposed to rubella while you’re pregnant, contact your doctor immediately.