Miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and congenital rubella syndrome are possible complications when a woman contracts rubella during pregnancy, according to the March of Dimes. Congenital rubella syndrome occurs when the mother passes rubella to her developing baby, increasing the child's risk of birth defects, such as hearing or vision loss, heart defects, intellectual disabilities, problems with bones, and liver or spleen damage. The child may also have growth problems.
The risk of complications from rubella are greatest when the mother contracts the disease early in pregnancy, explains BabyCenter. When a woman contracts rubella during the first trimester of pregnancy, the baby has an 85 percent chance of contracting congenital rubella syndrome. The risk decreases to 54 percent when the expectant mother contracts rubella between weeks 13 and 16 of her pregnancy. When a woman contracts rubella after the 20th week of pregnancy, her baby is unlikely to suffer any birth defects.
Rubella, also called German measles, is a mild disease that may cause no symptoms in some people, while others may develop flu-like symptoms and a rash that last for about three days, states the March of Dimes. Babies in the United States routinely receive vaccinations to protect them from rubella, so the disease is extremely rare in this country. Because rubella is still common in other countries, an unvaccinated woman can contract the disease from foreigners visiting the United States or by coming in contact with the disease when she travels abroad.