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Why Pregnant Women Should Protect Themselves Against Measles

Why Pregnant Women Should Protect Themselves Against Measles

Measles is a respiratory infection that spreads through coughing or sneezing. It causes symptoms, like fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes. About two to three days after the onset of these symptoms, tiny white spots typically appear inside the mouth (Koplik spots), followed by a red blotchy rash that spreads from head to toe. And as much as it can be dangerous for children younger than 5 and adults older than 20, measles is also a serious illness for pregnant women. What are the possible complications of measles if you develop it during pregnancy?

Why Measles is Even More Problematic for Pregnant Women (and Their Baby)

All the complications of measles a non-pregnant adult can experience can also occur in pregnant women. These include:

  • Pneumonia, which requires medicine or, in serious cases, hospitalization.
  • Diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Encephalitis or the inflammation of the brain. This complication happens in about 1 or 1000 patients.
  • Bronchitis (inflammation of the airways) and laryngitis (inflammation of the voice box)

If you’re pregnant, treating these complications becomes even harder. Case in point: Some antibiotics may not be safe for the fetus. On top of that, these complications can affect the baby in the womb. Pneumonia during pregnancy, for instance, is associated with low birth weight and preterm birth.

But, the complications of measles during pregnancy don’t end there. Measles alone can cause:

It is important to note that measles during pregnancy is NOT associated with birth defects.

Pregnant Women Should Avoid Exposure to Anyone With Measles

Because of the gravity of the potential complications, pregnant women should be proactive in avoiding exposure to this infection. The following symptoms can clue you in that someone may have measles:

  • Red, sore, or watery eyes
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Fever
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Rashes

In general, refrain from having close contact with people who have visible cold-like illness. It might help to talk to your relatives and friends in advance, especially if you’re not vaccinated with the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine yet. Tell them that you might not be able to attend big gatherings or receive visitors who have the cold at home.

About Measles Vaccination

The best way to prevent measles during pregnancy is to get the vaccine at least one month before getting pregnant or as soon as possible after giving birth. You cannot get the MMR vaccine WHILE you are pregnant because it uses live attenuated (weakened) virus that can, theoretically, cross the placenta and infect the fetus.

You should also make sure your family members are immunized so that you and your baby are protected from exposure.

When to Reach Out to Your Doctor

Set an appointment with your doctor if:

  • You’ve had an exposure to measles. Contacting your doctor is particularly crucial if you haven’t had measles yet or have not received 2 doses of the MMR vaccine.
  • You have a weak immune system and had exposure to measles
  • Someone at home developed measles or symptoms pointing to measles. Remember that measles is dangerous to kids younger than 5 years old.

Key Takeaways

If you’re not yet protected against measles, you need to be cautious about exposure. This is because the complications of measles include stillbirth, preterm birth, low birth weight, and miscarriage. It is not, however, associated with birth defects.
The best way to prevent measles during pregnancy is to receive the vaccine at least one month before getting pregnant (or as soon as possible after giving birth). Pregnant women should not have the MMR vaccine as the attenuated virus can cross the placenta. Another way of protecting yourself is to make sure that people in the house are vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.

Learn more about Pregnancy Problems here.


Pregnancy Weight Gain

This calculator is for women who want to know what their healthy weight gain range during pregnancy is, based upon what their weight was before they became pregnant.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated 4 days ago
Fact Checked by Kristel Lagorza