It is vital that a woman’s rubella immunity be tested prior to pregnancy, since rubella infection presents a serious threat to the health of the fetus.
Rubella, also known as the German measles or three-day measles, is a highly contagious viral infection spread through direct contact of nasal or oral secretions of an infected individual. The disease can also be passed from a mother to her fetus through the bloodstream.
Typically, rubella produces mild symptoms of rash, low-grade fever, sore throat, achy joints, eye redness and runny nose. The onset of symptoms occurs approximately two weeks after exposure to the virus and the rash typically lasts about three days.
The most serious consequences of the German measles occur during the first trimester of pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, as many as 85 percent of infants born to mothers who contract rubella during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy suffer from congenital birth defects,54 percent of babies develop abnormalities when the disease is contracted between weeks 13-16 and 25 percent when the mother is infected at the end of the second trimester.
The following birth defects linked to rubella during pregnancy:
All women of childbearing age should undergo rubella immunity testing, or be vaccinated, if reliable evidence of rubella immunity cannot be established. Rubella titer is a simple blood test done to identify blood antibodies that develop in response to rubella infection or vaccination.
Reproductive endocrinologists recommend women have a rubella titer prior to infertility treatment. Even those who have been previously immunized for rubella should be tested, since immunity can wane. If immunity cannot be confirmed, a rubella vaccination is given. Following vaccination, pregnancy should be delayed for a period of 28 days.
The rubella vaccine contains a live attenuated virus, therefore, for precautionary reasons; it is not administered during pregnancy. However, studies show, that in cases where the vaccine has been inadvertently administered to pregnant women, there have been no reports of fetal harm.
The rubella vaccine is a safe, effective vaccine for both children and adults with very few side effects. Testing for rubella immunity prior to pregnancy is an important tool used by fertility specialists to reduce the risk of rubella-related birth defects.