As part of their planning for a health pregnancy, Public Health Wales is urging women to check whether they have had two doses of the MMR vaccine. If not, they should have their both doses before trying for a baby.
The MMR vaccine, which has been proven to be safe and effective, protects against rubella, mumps and measles. However, it cannot be given to women who are pregnant.
Up to now, pregnant women have been offered a blood test to check whether they are immune to rubella – also known as German measles. If they were not immune, they were offered the MMR vaccine after they had their baby.
However, due to the success of the MMR immunisation programme in almost completely eradicating rubella, this blood test is stopping on October 3 in Wales. This decision was taken by the Welsh Government following a recommendation by the UK National Screening Committee. Antenatal rubella screening has also stopped in England and Scotland.
Dr Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme for Public Health Wales, said, “Rubella, or German measles, is a viral infection and spreads easily from one person to another. It is normally a mild illness and someone with rubella may have a rash and feel unwell for about a week.
“Due to the success of the MMR immunisation programme in pre-school children, rubella is rare in Wales and we have had no cases in the last decade. However, catching rubella in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy can cause serious damage to a baby’s brain, heart, eyes and hearing. This is called congenital rubella syndrome.”
Sharon Hillier, Deputy Director of Screening for Public Health Wales, said, “As the MMR cannot be given while you are pregnant we are encouraging women thinking about having a baby to check that they have had their two doses of MMR vaccine before becoming pregnant.
“It is really important that any pregnant woman who develops a rash or has come into contact with someone with a rash, should telephone their midwife or GP for advice.
“Women should avoid becoming pregnant for one month after receiving the MMR vaccination, so a reliable method of contraception is needed.”
Advice and guidance is also available from the Antenatal Screening Wales ‘infections and pregnancy- protecting your baby’ booklet and in the ‘Pregnancy – how to help protect you and your baby’ leaflet available to download from: www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk/doityourself/vaccinations/Leaflets/