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Congenital rubella

Congenital rubella is a condition that occurs in an infant whose mother is infected with the virus that causes German measles.


Congenital rubella occurs when the rubella virus in the mother affects the developing baby at a critical time, in the first 3 months of pregnancy. After the fourth month, the mother's rubella infection is less likely to harm the developing baby.

The number of babies born with congenital rubella has decreased dramatically since the introduction of the rubella vaccine.

Pregnant women who are not vaccinated for rubella and who have not had the disease in the past risk infecting themselves and their unborn baby.


Symptoms in the infant may include:

  • Cloudy corneas or white appearance to pupil
  • Deafness
  • Developmental delay
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Low birth weight
  • Intellectual disability
  • Seizures
  • Small head size
  • Skin rash at birth

Exams and Tests

The baby's health care provider will run blood and urine tests to check for the virus.


There is no specific treatment for congenital rubella. Symptoms are treated as appropriate.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome for a child with congenital rubella depends on the severity of problems present. Heart defects can often be corrected. Damage to the nervous system is permanent.

Possible Complications

Complications may involve many parts of the body.


  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Retinitis


Central nervous system:

  • Intellectual disability
  • Motor disability
  • Small head from failed brain development
  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis


  • Deafness
  • Low blood platelet count
  • Enlarged liver and spleen
  • Abnormal muscle tone
  • Bone disease

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have concerns about congenital rubella, if you are unsure of your vaccination status, or if you or your children need a rubella vaccine.


Vaccination prior to pregnancy can prevent congenital rubella. Pregnant women who are not immune to rubella should avoid contact with persons who have the virus.

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Update Date 5/10/2013

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