MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)

Rubella, also known as German measles, is a rare illness that causes a spotty rash, cold like symptoms and aching joints.It usually gets better in about 1 week.It spreads through coughs and sneezes.

Catching rubella can be very dangerous during pregnancy, for this reason it is essential that your MMR immunisations are up to date BEFORE you become pregnant.

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What harm can be caused by catching rubella in pregnancy?

Although rubella is rare, outbreaks do, and can, happen at any time. Catching rubella while you are pregnant can harm your developing baby. It can cause the following problems for your baby:

  • Loss of the baby (miscarriage)
  • Poorly developed sight
  • Hearing loss
  • Heart problems
  • Brain damage

The risk of harm is worse if you are to catch rubella early in the pregnancy as this is when the baby is doing all of its major growing and developing. Rubella is not thought to be a risk to your baby if you catch it after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

What is the MMR vaccine?

The MMR vaccine is given as part of the childhood programme and protects against measles, mumps and rubella. Most people would have had the required two doses of the MMR vaccine in childhood which provides lifelong protection. However some people may not be up to date therefore it is advised you check this before you become pregnant.

If two doses of the MMR vaccination have been given, then there is a 99% protection rate against rubella.

When and where can I have the vaccine?

We generally do not give pregnant women MMR vaccines, as it is a live vaccine, unless the risk of not having the vaccine outweighs the risk of having a live vaccine while pregnant.

If you are not up to date with your vaccinations and go on to have the MMR vaccine, you will need to wait at least one month before falling pregnant.

If you are currently pregnant and are not up to date with your MMR vaccinations, you can have the vaccine once your baby is born. You will need to organise this through your GP surgery.

What else can I do to protect myself?

Having the vaccination is the most effective way of gaining protection. If you are pregnant and have not been vaccinated, to help protect yourself in the meantime avoid contact with anyone you suspect has rubella and any of their belongings or surroundings and ensure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.

Should you experience a rash during pregnancy, which has not been caused by a known reaction to a change in detergent or sanitary products, it is worth contacting your GP or midwife for assessment.

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