Measles and being pregnant

You must try to avoid the combination of measles and pregnancy. Unfortunately, the signs of measles infection in the early stages of this disease are often mistaken for a runny nose, until the characteristic rash and spots on the skin become visible. In adults, measles can have a serious course. In a pregnant woman, this infectious disease can lead to premature birth. Vaccination against the measles virus is no longer permitted during pregnancy.

How do I recognize measles?

Due to the long incubation period and the symptoms associated with measles in the first few days, the measles disease is difficult to recognize at first. The incubation period is on average fourteen days, but can also be up to eighteen days. In some cases, transmission of this disease through yourself is also possible eight days after your infection. The infection is airborne and starts via the nasopharynx. The nose and throat contain the virus of someone who is contagious and you can easily be coughed on. You will develop a runny nose, cough and may develop a high fever (more than forty degrees). But there are more signals such as a sore throat, diarrhea, nausea, red painful eyes and feeling tired. After a few days the fever drops and you may think that the cold is over, but the opposite is true. White spots will appear in the mouth and then a red rash on the skin. This rash and red spots, which are familiar from measles, can initially be found mainly on the forehead and behind the ears, then on the entire body. Moreover, these spots become even larger. Only the arms and legs remain spot-free. The great danger of measles lies in the possible complications, contagiousness and the consequences of pregnancy.

Measles is highly contagious

The measles virus is very easily transmitted from person to person and is therefore very contagious. Protected are those who have been vaccinated on time or have already contracted the disease earlier in their lives. Fortunately, there is a well-functioning vaccine and many choose to combine the vaccination with the vaccine against two other infectious diseases, mumps and red round. The MMR vaccine is a three in one vaccine that protects you against mumps, measles and rubella. If an expectant mother has been vaccinated in the past and has built up antibodies, she also protects her unborn child. And that is important because the complications of measles can be enormous in some cases because a superinfection occurs. Measles can also lead to:

  • Pneumonia;
  • Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) and meningitis (meningitis);
  • Ear infection and especially middle ear infection;
  • Bronchitis;
  • Problems with the heart and heart muscle.

To put all this in a broader perspective:

  • The risk of pneumonia in the Netherlands is estimated at 1 to 5%.
  • The chance of a middle ear infection in the Netherlands is estimated at 5 to 10%.
  • The chance of encephalitis is small and is estimated at 1 in 1,000 cases.
  • In developing countries, 5 to 10 percent die every year from complications of the measles virus.

As one gets older, the risk of complications also increases.

Not all spot diseases are measles, get tested

If you discover a skin rash, exanthema, it does not necessarily have to be measles because there are other diseases and conditions that cause spots on the skin. But you can get tested and if you are pregnant or want to become pregnant, the test is definitely recommended. Children from fourteen months of age are routinely offered a measles vaccination through the National Vaccination Program, but not everyone makes use of it, usually because of their religious beliefs (Bible Belt). Finally, a pregnant woman who has been infected with the measles virus can still be administered immunoglobulin within one week after infection. These are extra antibodies against the disease. but is not a substitute vaccine.

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