Rubella vaccine (MMR) before pregnancy

Rubella is rare but it can be dangerous to the unborn baby if you catch it while you’re pregnant. You can prevent this by making sure you have the MMR vaccination (jab), which includes rubella, before you start trying for a baby.

What is Rubella? 

Rubella (also known as german measles) is a mild and preventable disease caused by a virus. The virus is air-borne, which means it can spread through the air when you do things like coughing or sneezing.  

Rubella in pregnancy 

Rubella is rare in pregnancy, but it can be very dangerous. It can cause:

  • miscarriage
  • problems with the baby’s development
  • serious problems after the baby is born, such as problems with their sight, hearing or heart and brain. This is known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS).

The risk is highest if you get rubella early in pregnancy. There is less risk to your baby if you get rubella after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Getting vaccinated against rubella before getting pregnant

Rubella is a rare disease in the UK because most people are vaccinated when they are children, which protects them against infection.

But if you’re planning to have a baby it’s important not to take any risks. You can protect yourself and your baby by:

  • checking with your GP that you have been vaccinated, if you are not sure or  
  • getting vaccinated before you start trying to get pregnant.

Getting vaccinated against rubella during pregnancy is not recommended. This is why it is best to get vaccinated before you start trying to get pregnant.

The MMR vaccine can prevent rubella. It also protects you from measles and mumps.

Rubella symptoms

The main symptom of rubella is a spotty rash that starts on the face or behind the ears and spreads to the neck and body. The rash takes 2 to 3 weeks to appear after getting rubella.

This may look red or pink on white skin. It can be harder to see on brown or black skin, but might feel rough or bumpy.

Symptoms can include:

  • aching fingers, wrists or knees
  • a high temperature
  • coughs
  • sneezing and a runny nose
  • headaches
  • a sore throat
  • sore, red eyes.

Someone can have the virus in their system for 14 to 21 days before they develop symptoms. They are infectious from one week before the symptoms appear to four days after the rash starts.

Some people don’t have any symptoms at all and may not know they are infectious. This means they could pass the virus to someone else without realising.

How do I find out if I need a vaccination (jab)?  

You do not need a rubella vaccination if you had 1 rubella or 2 MMR vaccinations as a child. MMR stands for measles, mumps, rubella. This is normally given to children in 2 injections before they are 6 years old.

You can ask your GP surgery to check if you have had the MMR vaccination.  

You can have the vaccination if you do not know who your doctor was at the time or have no way of being certain that you were vaccinated.

Having the vaccination again won’t do you any harm. 

How do I get protected?  

You can make an appointment to get vaccinated at your local GP practice.  

When should I get vaccinated against Rubella? 

You will need to have 2 MMR jabs 3 month apart. Getting the second jab at least a month before you get pregnant will give you excellent protection against the disease.  

The rubella vaccine is a live vaccine (it uses a very weak form of the virus to make your body to develop immunity against it). This means getting it during pregnancy is not recommended.

It is best to keep using contraception for 1 month more after you get your last MMR vaccine.

How long should I wait to get pregnant after I get vaccinated?

As a precaution, the MMR vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women.

You should also avoid becoming pregnant for 1 month after having the MMR vaccine.

What if I find out I am pregnant after I get vaccinated?

Do not worry if you find out you are pregnant and you have only recently had your vaccination. There’s no evidence that the vaccine causes rubella damage to unborn babies. Talk to your GP or midwife if you are still worried.

When should I see a doctor about rubella symptoms during pregnancy?

Getting rubella in pregnancy is rare because most people have been vaccinated. But call your midwife or GP immediately if you're pregnant and either:

  • you have a new rash
  • you’ve been in close contact with someone who has rubella. 

NHS. Thinking of getting pregnant? (2011)

NHS. Rubella (german measles) (Page last reviewed: 23 May 2022 Next review due: 23 May 2025)

Review dates
Reviewed: 29 August 2023
Next review: 29 August 2026