Protect yourself and your fetus from German Measles

 

Protect yourself and your fetus from German Measles


Protect yourself and your fetus from German Measles

If you’re pregnant or planning to be, you need to know about German measles and how to protect your unborn child.


You’re pregnant, and it’s probably the best news you’ve heard in your life! You can’t wait for the new arrival, and all of a sudden, questions are running through your head. Will it be a boy or a girl? What will you name the baby?  What do you need to buy?  And most importantly, will the baby be healthy?


Most woman today play their part in doing “what’s right” during pregnancy to ensure their baby’s well-being. They eat well, sleep well and do all the things that their doctors advise.  But did you know that there are precautions to take before you get pregnant to safeguard the well-being of your child?  One of the most important precautions is knowing all you can about German measles.


German measles is a disease caused by a virus called rubella, which spreads from an infected person to another person through coughing, sneezing and talking. However, it is most dangerous when it spreads from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn child through the placenta. This is because the virus produces serious birth defects in the unborn child.


German measles can affect children or adults. Most people recover quickly after getting a slight fever, a rash that goes away after about three days, and sometimes headaches, aching joints, sore throat and loss of appetite. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all.  However, the effect of German measles on an unborn fetus can be damaging and permanent, depending on when the infection occurs during pregnancy. If a woman is infected during the first three months of pregnancy, there is a risk of miscarriage or stillbirth, or the baby may be born deaf, blind, with heart disease, mental retardation or other serious disabilities. The risk of damage to the fetus decreases as the pregnancy continues, and after the twentieth week of pregnancy, if a woman is infected with German measles, it usually doesn’t pose a threat to the fetus.


Fortunately, you can protect your baby. While most women see their doctor only after they suspect they are pregnant, it’s advisable to talk to your gynecologist and express your concerns before you try to get pregnant. Your doctor will want to find out whether you are immune to German measles or not. You are immune if you previously had the combined Mumps, Measles and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, or if you were infected by the virus as a child, according to Dr. Ahmed Shams, professor of obstetrics and gynecology.


Dr. Shams explains that a simple blood test will reveal whether you have enough antibodies, which fight the virus, circulating in your blood to protect you from German measles. If you have enough antibodies, you are immune and can go ahead and plan your pregnancy. What if you’re not immune? “If the test proves negative, then the woman is asked to take the MMR vaccine three months before planning to get pregnant,” answers Dr. Shams.


If you are already pregnant and haven’t discussed this matter with your physician, you should discuss it now and have the test. Dr. Shams says, “If your test proves positive, then you and your fetus are on the safe side and there is no risk of possible infection. You were probably vaccinated before, or maybe even infected by the virus unknowingly, and thus gained immunity.” He adds that if your test proves negative, you are advised to avoid close contact with anyone who could be infected and anyone who is not immune, especially high-risk groups like children.


Most doctors do not advise taking the MMR vaccine while you are pregnant.  The MMR vaccine is prepared from a live, weakened virus, and this may pose a small risk to the fetus. However, according to the Vaccine, Preventable Diseases and Immunization (VPI) Unit at the World Health Organization in Cairo, a number of countries have conducted studies on women who were vaccinated during the first three months of pregnancy, and all of them gave birth to healthy babies with no sign of infection. If you are pregnant, have not had the vaccine and are not immune, many doctors advise that you be vaccinated immediately after delivery so that you will be protected from German measles during any future pregnancies.


Now that you know all about German measles, you can take a safe step forward and enjoy the nine months to come, knowing that you have done your best to ensure your baby’s good health.