Rubella is a mild infection. Once you've had the disease, you're usually permanently immune. Some women with rubella experience arthritis in the fingers, wrists and knees, which generally lasts for about one month. In rare cases, rubella can cause an ear infection (otitis media) or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).

However, if you're pregnant when you contract rubella, the consequences for your unborn child may be severe. Up to 90 percent of infants born to mothers who had rubella during the first 11 weeks of pregnancy develop congenital rubella syndrome. This can cause one or more problems, including:

  • Growth retardation
  • Cataracts
  • Deafness
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Defects in other organs
  • Mental retardation

The highest risk to the fetus is during the first trimester, but exposure later in pregnancy also is dangerous.

Jul. 09, 2011