Rubella - a big danger for the unborn

Rubella is usually harmless in children. Often they are not noticed because they show no obvious symptoms. For pregnant women and their unborn children, however, they can become a serious danger. Rubella is a classic childhood disease and, like measles and chickenpox, is caused by viruses; but they are not quite as contagious. They are transmitted by droplet infection when sneezing, coughing or speaking. However, it will take another 14-21 days for the disease to break out. However, those affected are already contagious one week before and one week after the occurrence of the rashes. In about half of childhood infections, the disease goes unnoticed because there are no identifiable symptoms.

Which symptoms occur?

Usually, the disease begins with cold-like symptoms such as coughing and runny nose, possibly conjunctivitis. The lymph nodes in the neck swell and hurt. One to two days later, the bright red, fine-blemished rash appears behind the ears and spreads over the face, neck, arms and legs over the entire body.

The children may have a mild fever, rarely itching; but they usually do not feel very ill. The rash disappears after two to three days. After the infection, you are immune for a lifetime.

How does the doctor make a diagnosis?

The doctor tries to make his diagnosis because of the appearance of the child. This is not always easy, because the rubella can be easily confused with other teething troubles, such as scarlet fever or measles.

How is treated?

There is no special therapy. Only the occurring symptoms are treated.


Rare, but with increasing age more common complications are eg ear, brain and arthritis. Rubella is particularly feared during pregnancy: An infection of the mother transmitted via the placenta causes serious harm to the unborn child (heart defects, deafness, blindness, mental disabilities) and can cause an early or miscarriage. Frequency and severity are dependent on the time of infection during pregnancy. The greatest risk is in the first four months of pregnancy.


  • A sick child should not come into contact with pregnant women who did not yet have rubella or who have not been vaccinated.
  • Women who want to have children should have their doctor have a blood test for antibodies against rubella viruses and get vaccinated if they are not protected.

Pregnant and rubella

If a (unvaccinated) pregnant woman has contact with an infected person or suspects that she has already been infected, a blood test should be carried out immediately. If it has indeed infected, must be given as soon as possible a special antibody preparation.

In addition, it can be examined whether the fetus has become infected. This is done via a chorionic biopsy (tissue removal from the placenta) or an amniotic fluid examination; From the 22nd week of pregnancy, the umbilical cord blood of the fetus can be tested. These examinations can only be done by experienced experts.

Preventive measures

Effective vaccination in infancy provides for girls and boys. In Germany (FRG), the rubella vaccine was introduced in 1974. It has been recommended since 1980 by the STIKO (Standing Vaccination Commission at the Robert Koch Institute) as a combination vaccination with measles and mumps (MMR vaccine).

As a rule, it is performed between the age of 12 and 15 and a second time in the second year of life, at the earliest 4 weeks after the first. This second vaccination is not a booster vaccine, but should give the vaccinees, in which the first vaccination has not "hit" correctly, a second chance. If a child is admitted to a children's institution, the MMR vaccination can also take place from the age of nine months.


Since there is no age limit, the vaccination can be made up at any age. In addition, MMR vaccination is recommended in facilities for birth preparation and childcare as well as baby and child care.

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