Symptoms of rubella during pregnancy include a fever, a rash, and a sore throat. However, many people with rubella do not display symptoms and may not know they have the infection.
Since the rubella vaccination protects a person for life, the infection is rare in countries such as the United States that include the rubella vaccine in routine childhood vaccinations.
However, people who have not received the vaccination can contract rubella, often through travel to countries where the infection is common.
While rubella usually does not cause serious problems for adults, the infection can be dangerous for a fetus. If a person contracts rubella while pregnant, it can cause severe congenital disorders.
This article will examine rubella and pregnancy, including symptoms, impact, treatment, testing, and vaccination.
This feature mentions pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or both. Please read at your own discretion.
When symptoms do develop, they are
The rash lasts about 3 days and often starts on the face before spreading to the rest of the body.
Other symptoms include:
- a low grade fever
- loss of appetite
- a sore throat
- a runny nose
- a cough
- pink eye, also called conjunctivitis
- red eyes
- muscle aches
- joint pain
- swollen glands in the ears and neck
The rubella virus is highly contagious. It is airborne and can spread via:
- sharing food or drink
Rubella can also pass from a pregnant person to a fetus during pregnancy.
Part of what makes rubella so contagious is that it is transmissible while a person is asymptomatic. This means people can spread rubella even if they do not develop symptoms.
People with symptomatic rubella can spread the virus up to a week before the appearance of a rash.
If a pregnant person acquires rubella, the infection can cause congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) in the fetus.
CRS can cause
- a low birth weight
- skin rashes
- heart defects
- liver damage
- spleen damage
- intellectual disability
Some CRS-related anomalies are less common, such as:
Rubella in pregnancy can also cause miscarriage.
Rubella treatment usually involves symptom management using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Bed rest and an increased fluid intake may also help.
When a pregnant person contracts rubella, the gestation age of the fetus may affect treatment decisions.
If they contract the infection before
If they contract the infection after 18 weeks of gestation, the fetus may experience effects that are less severe.
After birth, CRS treatment addresses organ-specific symptoms in the infant. Children with CRS often have multidisciplinary care teams to address the issues they may experience.
Rubella immunoglobulin G (IgG) testing is a type of serology testing to assess a person’s immunity to rubella.
Serology is the process of examining blood serum and secretions such as saliva, usually to assess an immune system response. Serum is the watery part of the blood that does not clot and contains disease-fighting antibodies.
Rubella IgG testing while pregnant
IgG testing involves measuring the avidity of IgG. Avidity is the binding strength between antibodies and an antigen.
With most viruses, avidity increases over time. This means that IgG testing can help identify whether immunity is from a new or previous infection.
If a person tests positive for rubella IgG, the likelihood of acquiring a rubella infection is low.
Immunoglobulin M testing
While IgG testing assesses immunity, immunoglobulin M (IgM) testing identifies active infection.
Serology testing for rubella IgM can confirm suspected cases of rubella. It can also identify CRS in newborns and infants.
The CDC advises against routine IgM screening in asymptomatic people because of the chance of false positive test results.
The rubella vaccine is a live virus vaccine and healthcare professionals should not administer it during pregnancy.
It also states that people should take steps to avoid becoming pregnant for at least 4 weeks after receiving the rubella vaccine, and pregnant people who have not received a vaccination should wait until after they have given birth to do so.
Rubella is a contagious viral illness that is dangerous to fetuses. A rubella infection in a pregnant person can cause severe congenital disorders and pregnancy loss.
The rubella vaccine is a weakened but live version of the virus. According to the CDC, people should not receive it during pregnancy or within the 4 weeks before conception.
Serology testing can reveal whether a person has immunity to rubella. Testing may also detect the presence of an active infection.
Rubella treatment aims to reduce the impact of symptoms, usually with the use of NSAIDs.