Can measles harm my baby during pregnancy?

Measles is a highly infectious disease that mainly affects young children, but can be caught at any age. Measles is now less common in the UK as many people have been vaccinated. As measles can be very serious, it is important that children are vaccinated as part of the MMR jab.

If you catch measles during pregnancy and you're not immune, this may result in a miscarriagestillbirth or pre-term (early) delivery.

The measles virus is very easily spread in droplets from coughs and sneezes in the air. It can also be caught from contact with the skin of an infected person. You may not show symptoms until between six and 21 days after being exposed to measles, but most people show symptoms after about 10 days (this is called the incubation period).

Early symptoms of measles are similar to a cold, with a fever, cough, red eyes and tiny spots (Koplik's spots) in the mouth. A red-brown spotty rash appears two to four days later and lasts for up to eight days.

Read more information about the symptoms of measles.

When to see your GP

If you're pregnant and you think you've come into contact with someone with measles and you know you're not immune, you should see your GP immediately. Your GP may treat you with human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG). This may reduce the severity of your measles, but there is no evidence that it prevents miscarriage, stillbirth or pre-term delivery.

If you're planning on getting pregnant and you're not sure if you've had measles or the measles vaccination, your GP may suggest you have the MMR jab to make sure you're immune.

You cannot have the jab while pregnant because the vaccination contains a live virus, which could cause infection in the baby. For the same reason, you should not become pregnant for at least a month after having the MMR jab.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 13/03/2013

Next review due: 12/03/2015