A pregnant person showing signs of rubella or suspected rubella exposure, such as a facial rash or low grade fever, must contact a doctor immediately. They will receive a rubella test, and doctors can discuss the next steps.

Rubella is an infection that can cause serious complications for a pregnant person and a developing fetus.

Rubella during pregnancy can cause pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), which causes serious birth abnormalities. It is important to undergo vaccination against rubella before becoming pregnant.

Rubella may cause the most severe complications during the early stages of pregnancy, within the first 12 weeks, according to the advocacy group March of Dimes.

This article looks at steps to take if people think they may have rubella exposure during pregnancy.

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If people think they may have had exposure to rubella while pregnant, they will need to contact a doctor straight away.

Rubella can pass between people if someone with a rubella infection sneezes, coughs, or shares food or drink items with others.

Rubella may not always cause symptoms, but if it does, they can include:

  • a rash on the face, which then spreads to other areas of the body and lasts around 3 days
  • a low grade fever
  • headache
  • runny nose
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • red eyes or conjunctivitis, which is also known as pink eye
  • swollen glands behind the ears or on the neck
  • muscle aches
  • joint pain or arthritis, particularly in the knees, wrists, and fingers

If people develop a rash at any stage of their pregnancy, they must let a healthcare professional know immediately.

Doctors will take a blood test to check if people have a rubella infection or immunity.

There is no specific treatment for rubella, but some methods can help ease symptoms. If a pregnant person has rubella, they will need to drink plenty of fluids to stay well-hydrated and get plenty of bed rest.

People may take acetaminophen or medication to reduce a fever. If symptoms are severe, individuals may require steroids or blood transfusions.

Doctors will discuss the risk to the developing fetus. If a person requires rubella within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, there is more risk to the fetus, but rubella in late pregnancy has fewer risks.

People need to avoid contact with anybody else who may be pregnant. A person also needs to let any healthcare professionals or clinics know that they have rubella before entering a medical facility.

After a person has given birth, they will need to have a measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which they can have during the postpartum period following childbirth.

A doctor will take a blood test to check if people are immune to rubella or if a rubella infection is present.

The test can show if people have certain antibodies in the blood that indicate rubella infection or immunity.

A test may detect antibodies that indicate a rubella infection 4–30 days after a rash appears with a rubella infection. People may also test positive after having a recent MMR vaccine.

If tests show a person has immunity to rubella, the risk of contracting a rubella infection is very low, and people do not require further testing. A person needs to let a doctor know immediately if a rash develops.

If a test shows neither the antibodies for rubella infection nor immunity are present, a doctor will wait 4 weeks before retesting.

If a test comes back positive for rubella, doctors will carry out a second test to confirm the results.

The MMR vaccine protects against rubella. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone planning to become pregnant receive the vaccine before trying for pregnancy.

The MMR vaccine is a live virus vaccine, which means it is unsuitable for people to have while pregnant. A person needs to wait until 4 weeks after the vaccine before becoming pregnant.

If people are pregnant and have not had the MMR vaccine, they will need to wait until after pregnancy to have the vaccine.

CRS affects how a baby develops and can cause the following birth abnormalities:

  • low birth weight
  • a skin rash at birth
  • deafness
  • heart abnormalities
  • intellectual disabilities
  • cataracts
  • damage to the liver and spleen

Less common signs of CRS include:

  • inflammation of the lungs
  • glaucoma
  • thyroid or hormone problems
  • brain damage

Rubella is an infection that can cause serious complications during pregnancy and can affect the development of a fetus.

If people think they may have had exposure to rubella at any stage of their pregnancy, it is important to contact a doctor straight away.

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine can help protect against rubella. If people are planning to become pregnant, they will need to have the MMR vaccine at least 4 weeks before trying for pregnancy. The MMR vaccine is unsuitable to have during pregnancy.

There is no treatment for rubella, but rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking medications to reduce fever may help ease symptoms.