Can mumps harm my baby during pregnancy?

Mumps is an infectious disease that many people in the UK have been vaccinated against, which means they're immune to it. The mumps vaccine is part of the MMR jab. It is not known to cause any problems in unborn babies, but there may be a small increased risk of miscarriage as a result of the illness and fever.

Mumps is caused by a contagious virus that is transmitted through airborne droplets from the coughs and sneezes of infected people. It mainly affects children between the ages of 5 and 15 who have not been vaccinated, but can be caught at any age.

Mumps is normally a mild illness, although in a minority of cases there can be severe complications, such as meningitis. The symptoms of mumps are:

  • fever
  • headache
  • swelling of the cheeks or jaw
  • swollen glands, which can last up to seven to 10 days

These symptoms usually appear two to three weeks after coming into contact with the infection, but it can take longer. The patient is infectious from one week before the symptoms appear until several days after their glands have begun to swell.

Read more information about the symptoms of mumps.

Pregnant women who develop mumps in the first 12 to 16 weeks of pregnancy may have a slightly higher risk of miscarriage, but there is no evidence that mumps can cause defects in the unborn child.

When to see your GP

If you're planning on getting pregnant and you're not sure if you're immune to mumps, see your GP to find out. They can arrange for you to have the MMR vaccination. If you're not immune, you cannot have the jab while pregnant because the vaccination contains a live virus that could cause infection in the baby. For the same reason, you should not become pregnant for at least a month after having your jab.

If you're pregnant and you think you've come into contact with someone with mumps and you know you're not immune, you should see your GP immediately. Although there is no cure for mumps, your GP will be able to suggest treatment to relieve your symptoms.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 13/03/2013

Next review due: 12/03/2015