Preventing rubella 

The best way to avoid catching rubella is to be immunised with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The MMR vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunisation programme. The first dose is given to a child when they're one year old, with a second booster dose given before the start of school, at three years and four months.

Contact your GP if you're uncertain whether your child's vaccinations are up-to-date. It's possible to have the MMR vaccination at any age.

If you suspect your immunisation isn't up-to-date and you're at risk of catching mumps, measles or rubella, your GP may recommend the MMR vaccine. For example, this may be necessary if there's an outbreak of measles, or if you're a woman planning to get pregnant.

If you're already immunised, having the MMR vaccine again won't cause you any harm.

Planning a pregnancy

It's a good idea to check that you're fully protected against rubella if you're planning to have a baby. 

If you're not sure you've had two doses of the MMR vaccine, you can get your GP practice to check your vaccination history. 

If your records show you haven't had both doses or there is no record, ask to have the vaccinations.

Because MMR vaccination could cause a risk to your baby in pregnancy, you should avoid becoming pregnant for one month after having it. So you'll need a reliable method of contraception.

During pregnancy

If you're pregnant, you'll be offered a rubella immunity blood test by your GP or midwife as part of routine antenatal screening. Most women are immune and no further action is required.

If you're not immune to rubella, try to avoid anyone who has the rubella virus. Inform your GP if you come into contact with anyone who has the rubella virus.

You can receive the MMR vaccination after giving birth to protect you against rubella in the future. The MMR vaccine can be given to breastfeeding mothers without any risk to their baby.

Limiting the spread of infection

Someone who has the rubella virus is infectious for one week before symptoms appear and around four days after the rash first develops.

If you or your child have rubella, you should limit the risk of infecting other people by staying off work or school for four days after you develop the rash. You should also try to avoid contact with pregnant women for at least four days from the start of the rash.

Vaccination before travelling

Although rubella is uncommon in the UK, the condition is more widespread in some other parts of the world, such as areas of Africa, Asia and South America.

You should contact your GP before travelling to areas with high rates of rubella if you're unsure whether you've been fully immunised against the condition. In some cases, having the MMR vaccine before travelling may be recommended.

Page last reviewed: 03/11/2015

Next review due: 03/11/2017