Updated: 2018, Aug 9

Rubella During Pregnancy: Will It Harm The Baby?

By - Reviewed by CHD Team
Rubella During Pregnancy

What Is Rubella?

Rubella is a virus that causes a skin rash and joint pain. Rubella is not the same as measles (rubeola) though the two illnesses do share some characteristics, including the red rash. However, rubella is caused by a different virus than measles and is neither as infectious nor usually as severe as measles. If a pregnant woman contracts rubella, it can have catastrophic consequences for her unborn baby, such as death or birth defects.

Rubella Symptoms

Rubella has symptoms that are similar to those of flu.

  • The primary symptom is the appearance of a rash on the face. This rash disappears after three days with no staining or peeling of the skin. The rash doesn’t appear until 14 to 21 days after infection, with most people developing their rash on Day 17 or Day 18 after exposure. The rash on the face usually clears as it spreads to other parts of the body.
  • Another symptom is swollen glands or lymph nodes. These can last up to a week. When suffering from this symptom the fever rarely rises above 38 oC (100.4 oF)
  • Other symptoms may include:
  • Mild Fever
  • Headache
  • Runny Nose
  • Sore Eyes
  • Skin Rash
  • Joint Pain

Many complications may appear when you have rubella such as the development of a mild form of arthritis, ear infection, bleeding due to low platelets, encephalitis (infection of the brain), etc.

Rubella Causes

Rubella is caused by a virus that is spread through the air or by close contact. It is usually spread when you inhale the cough or sneeze of someone who is already infected by it, or if you have a direct contact with an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as mucus. It can be found from 5 to 7 days when it infected the body. The symptoms appear between 14 and 17 days since you have been infected. A person with rubella may spread the disease to others from 1 week before the rash begins, until 1 to 2 weeks after the rash disappears.

Must Watch: Dr. Susan L. MCGladdery, BM, BCH, MRCP On Discuss About Rubella and Pregnancy

How To Treat Rubella?

There is no specific treatment for rubella because the illness is viral. Because of that antibiotics don’t work. The following options of treatments have the aim to ease the symptoms and reduce the risk of complication:

  • Bed rest
  • Plenty of fluids
  • Paracetamol to reduce pain and fever.

It is important to isolate yourself for at least four days following the onset of the rash to reduce the risk of infecting others.

Rubella During Pregnancy: Will It Harm The Baby?

Rubella During Pregnancy

A rubella infection can be dangerous during pregnancy. It can cause miscarriage, or stillbirth, as well as a variety of birth defects. The problem that may happen during pregnancy depends on how far along a person is when they contact the virus.

  • If you contract rubella up to 13th week of your pregnancy, there is a very high risk (up to 90%) that your baby will be affected. The earlier in your pregnancy that you catch rubella, the greater the risk to the baby. After week 10 the risk to the baby is reduced, but they may develop problems with their sight or hearing that may not become apparent until they are older.
  • In weeks 14 and 15, there is still a risk to the baby. They may develop problems with their sight or hearing that may not become apparent until they are older.
  • After week 16, the risk to the baby is low.

Reducing The Risk Of Getting Rubella While Pregnant If Not Immune

Once you are pregnant, you can’t receive a vaccine. If you are not immune, try to avoid anyone who has the virus or who has been exposed to it. Some of the important precautions that you should take are as follows:

  • Make sure that you vaccinate your children and anyone else in the house.
  • Avoid contact with other people if there had been cases of rubella in your community. Stay home during the outbreak until the further announcement by health officials.
  • Postpone travel plans to any part of the world where rubella is still common.
Risk Of Getting Rubella

Once you give, birth make sure you get vaccinated right away so you won’t be concerned anymore.


Rubella is a disease that should not be taken for granted, especially not when pregnant. If you’re not immune to rubella and you come down with this illness during early pregnancy, it could be devastating for your baby. In order to reduce the dangerous problems that can happen to you baby when you have been affected by rubella. It is advisable to go and get tested and vaccinated for rubella before you are planning to conceive a baby.

[1] Centers for Disease Control. Control and prevention of rubella: evaluation and management of suspected outbreaks, rubella in pregnant women, and surveillance for congenital rubella syndrome. MMWR Recomm Rep July 13,2001
[2] Banerji A, Ford-Jones EL, Kelly E, Robinson JL. Congenital rubella syndrome despite maternal antibodies. CMAJ 2005
[3] World Health Organization. Rubella vaccines: WHO position paper. Weekly Epidiologcial Record No 29. 2011
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