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Pregnancy & Prenatal Testing

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Pre-Conception: Immunity to Rubella (German Measles)

Rubella is caused by a virus that is passed from person to person by coughs or sneezes. Any contact with the nasal or throat secretions of an infected person can spread the virus. Women who have either had a rubella infection or have received the vaccination will have an antibody in their blood that will usually prevent them from getting the infection a second time. This antibody also protects the unborn baby against the virus; this protection is called immunity.

Rubella infections during childhood usually cause mild symptoms. However, if a woman becomes infected with rubella during the first 3 months of her pregnancy and does not have immunity to the virus, the baby is at risk of having serious birth defects.

All women considering a first-time pregnancy or those who are pregnant for the first time should be tested to see if they have this immunity. A blood specimen is tested to see if a sufficient amount of antibody is present in the blood to protect the pregnant woman and the fetus. If a woman does not have enough antibodies and is not currently pregnant, she may be given a rubella vaccination. She should then wait at least 28 days before becoming pregnant.

The rubella vaccine is a weakened form of a live virus and should not be given to a woman who is currently pregnant. If a pregnant woman does not have sufficient antibody to protect her and her baby, she will be advised by her healthcare practitioner to avoid contact with anyone who has symptoms of rubella throughout the rest of her pregnancy. She should consult with her healthcare provider about the best time to get vaccinated after her baby is born and follow through with getting a rubella vaccination so that her next baby will be protected.

March of Dimes: Rubella and pregnancy