Congenital Rubella Syndrome
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Congenital Rubella Syndrome

En Español (Spanish Version)


Congenital rubella syndrome may occur when a pregnant woman is infected with rubella. Rubella is a viral illness usually resulting in a mild rash. In congenital rubella syndrome, the infection can lead to severe birth defects, especially if acquired in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy. Infection with rubella during pregnancy can also lead to miscarriage or stillbirth.

Rubella Rash


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Congenital rubella syndrome is caused by the rubella virus. A pregnant woman can contract from another person through tiny droplets in the air. The mother's rubella infection can harm a developing fetus, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

The following factors are thought to increase the risk of developing congenital rubella infection:

Pregnancy in First Trimester

9th week fetus

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Symptoms of congenital rubella infection may include:

  • Slowing of fetal growth
  • Small head circumference
  • Hearing loss
  • Inflammation of the retina
  • Dental problems and other bone problems
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataract
  • Abnormal smallness of one or both eyes
  • Inflammation of the uvea (middle layer of the eye)
  • Heart defects
  • Enlargement of liver and spleen, including liver damage
  • Neurological abnormalities including developmental delay
  • Chronic meningitis


Your doctor will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Other tests may include:

  • Blood tests—to look for infection with rubella virus
  • Imaging tests—to look for problems in the brain


Treatment will depend on the defects. For example, certain eye and heart defects may be corrected or improved with surgery shortly after birth. Babies with hearing loss, vision loss, or mental retardation may benefit from early intervention programs. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment options for your child's specific defect(s).


To prevent congenital rubella syndrome, all women of childbearing age should be vaccinated against the rubella virus. Screening for immunity may be conducted at premarital, preconception, or prenatal medical exams. Caretakers of infants with congenital rubella syndrome should be vaccinated against rubella, since these infants may spread the virus up to the age of one year or older.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

March of Dimes


Canadian Paediatric Society

Health Canada


Congenital rubella syndrome. DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed June 24, 2007.

Kleigman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Saunders; Philadelphia, PA; 2007.

Rubella. Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction website. Available at: Accessed July 12, 2007.

Zimmerman L, Reef S. Chapter 12: congenital rubella syndrome. VPD Surveillance Manual . 3rd ed. 2002. Available at: Accessed June 24. 2007.

Last reviewed April 2008 by Kari Kassir, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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