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What Are the Risks of Measles during Pregnancy?

Pregnant women should not receive the MMR vaccine.
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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 14 July 2014
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Women who get measles during pregnancy typically have normal pregnancies and deliver healthy babies, but they do have a slightly increased risk of miscarriage, infection, and preterm labor. There is also a chance that babies born to women who have had measles while pregnant may have a lower than average birth weight and might suffer from some hearing loss. Women who are of child-bearing age or are trying to conceive should be sure that they have been given the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine to decrease their chances of getting measles during pregnancy. The chances of a woman getting measles while she is pregnant even if she has not had the vaccine are typically low because the disease is not as rampant as it was before the release of the MMR vaccine.

Even if a pregnant woman had the MMR vaccine earlier in life, she should get screened early on during her prenatal treatment to make sure she still has an immunity to measles. People who have had the MMR vaccine do not always develop antibodies against the disease and might not have an immunity to it. If this is the case, the MMR vaccine is often given again. Pregnant women cannot safely receive the MMR vaccine, and for this reason doctors typically have to wait until immediately after a woman gives birth to vaccinate her against measles if she is not immune to measles during pregnancy.

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German measles, also known as rubella, may have more serious effects on a woman's fetus during pregnancy, including birth defects, developmental problems, and miscarriage. There is also an increased risk of stillbirth in babies who were carried to term by women who had German measles during pregnancy. There is a higher risk of danger to a fetus when German measles is contracted during the first trimester of pregnancy, and the risk of complications typically goes down when women get the illness during their second and third trimesters. Women who do not have immunity to German measles cannot be vaccinated while they are pregnant, so it is very important that they take precautions to avoid coming in contact with anyone who might have this form of measles.

The best way for all women to prevent getting any form of measles during pregnancy is to get the MMR vaccine before becoming pregnant if they have not already had it. Women who find out they are not immune to measles after they have already become pregnant should avoid people who may have measles at all costs. Traveling abroad to parts of the world where measles is problematic and the majority of people have not been vaccinated against it should probably be avoided by pregnant women who are not immune.

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Discuss this Article

Pippinwhite
Post 2

@Lostnfound -- Yeah. There's just no reason not to be up to date on your immunizations in the US. You can get them at the county health department even if you don't have a family doctor.

I wouldn't want measles during pregnancy, for sure. You have enough going on with your body without having to deal with measles, which are notoriously painful and difficult to deal with. And again, with the limited number of medications available to pregnant women for fever relief, measles and pregnancy must be a miserable experience.

Lostnfound
Post 1

A woman who is in a relationship where pregnancy might be on the table should go ahead and find out when her last MMR vaccine was, and just go ahead and get a booster. Most women have a physical before getting a prescription for birth control and this is an ideal time to get up to date on vaccines.

When I had my physical to get birth control, I went ahead and got a tetanus booster and a rubella vaccine. I'd had a measles vaccine not long before, so that was still good.

My doctor said she recommended an MMR to every woman who was getting a birth control physical. She said that was a small thing a woman could do that had great benefits down the road.

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