If you are planning to conceive you need to visit a doctor and they will prescribe you certain medications or take certain tests or even suggest various treatments. One of the things that your health care provider will suggest is to get vaccinated against rubella. So what is this rubella, why is it important to get vaccinated against it in the preconception period, and is it true that the rubella infection affects your fertility, and if so in what way? Have a look below to know in detail about these.

What is rubella?
         Rubella is an infection that causes rashes that typically start on the face and spread throughout the body. Few also experience fever, cough, headache, and joint pain associated with it. Rubella is often confused with measles but it is important to understand that both are completely different though they present with similar symptoms. Rubella usually spreads through the air. So when the affected person coughs or sneezes the virus gets transferred.

Who is at risk of having rubella?
         Anyone who is not vaccinated against rubella is at risk of having it. And those who make international travel are also at risk of having it.

So does rubella affect fertility?
         In women, rubella does not affect fertility in any way. However in males, if the rubella infection is left untreated it affects the testicles and makes the person infertile. It affects sperm production leading to decreased sperm count and it takes at least 4-6 months post-infection to recover to the normal production of sperm. In severe cases, the testicles swell up and shrink which negatively affects the sperm shape and function. Males who have not taken the MMR vaccine previously are at most risk of having rubella.

Then why is it necessary for women to test and get vaccinated against rubella in the preconception period? 
         Though it doesn’t affect fertility, it causes serious birth defects in babies if the infected mother is conceived. About 85 percent of the babies get affected if the mother is infected with rubella during pre-conception or in early pregnancy. Rubella causes an increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. In affected babies, it causes deafness, blindness, cataracts, skin rash at birth, mental retardation, defect in the functioning of the heart, liver, brain, and other organs, and failure or delay in growth of the baby. There is no cure for these abnormalities if it occurs right when the baby is in the womb.
         The only way to avoid these is to get vaccinated (MMR - Mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine). However, it is not recommended to take the MMR vaccine during pregnancy. Hence getting vaccinated when you are planning to conceive is important. And not everyone is required to take the vaccine. Your doctor will advise you to do a simple rubella IgG test initially. If the result comes out positive it means that you are immune to the disease and you are not required to take the MMR vaccine. In case it comes out negative it means that you are not immune to the disease and a MMR vaccine is required. Post-vaccination you will be asked to avoid trying to conceive for 4 weeks