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Congenital Rubella Syndrome
by Krisha McCoy, MS
Rubella is an infection caused by a virus. If a pregnant woman becomes infected, she can pass the infection to the unborn baby. This infection can lead to severe birth defects, miscarriage, or stillbirth. The health problems due to the infection are called congenital rubella syndrome.
Congenital rubella syndrome is caused by an infection of the rubella virus. The virus first infects the mother. It then passes to the baby during pregnancy. The virus interrupts the development of the baby.
Risk Factors TOP
There is a vaccination for rubella. If the mother has not had this vaccination, the baby has an increased risk of infection.
The infection is most dangerous to the baby in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Symptoms can vary depending on the timing of the infection. Some problems caused by congenital rubella include:
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Other tests may include:
Treatment will depend on the results of the infection. Certain eye and heart defects may be treated with surgery shortly after birth. Early intervention programs may also help babies with hearing loss, vision loss, or intellectual disability. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plans for your child.
Rubella vaccination for the mother can prevent congenital rubella syndrome. Screening for immunity may be done at premarital, preconception, or prenatal medical exams.
Infants with congenital rubella can spread the infection. Anyone taking care of your infant should be vaccinated against rubella.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Rubella. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116928/Rubella. Updated April 15, 2016. Accessed June 6, 2016.
McLean H, Redd S, et al. Chapter 15: Congenital rubella syndrome. VPD Surveillance Manual\. 5th ed. 2012. Available at:
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Accessed June 6, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013
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