Rubella ( German measles) is a mild viral illness that causes a sore throat, swollen glands and a rash, but it is dangerous for pregnant women. Congenital rubella syndrome is very dangerous for unborn babies and can cause deafness, cataracts, and abnormalities in the baby’s heart, lungs and brain. A pregnant woman with rubella is also more likely to miscarry. The risk is highest in the first trimester.
Visit your gynaecologist before pregnancy and do a blood test to see if you have rubella antibodies, says gynaecologist Dr Nirvashni Dwarka. If you are positive for rubella antibodies, this means you are vaccinated. If not, then have a rubella vaccine before conception (and do not conceive for 28 days to protect your baby once you’re pregnant). You may need a booster shot even if you had the vaccine in childhood. “But don’t have the vaccine if you are or may be pregnant,” she adds. (If you are accidentally vaccinated while pregnant, don’t stress as there is no evidence that this will be harmful, says expert gynaecologist Dr Bronwyn Moore.) If you are already pregnant and unvaccinated against rubella, you need to be vigilant in avoiding sick people. “If you do develop flu-like symptoms, go to your clinic and do a blood test to check for an acute rubella infection,” says Dr Dwarka. “If you are very infected and in the early stages of pregnancy your doctor will unfortunately recommend a termination.”