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What is congenital rubella syndrome (CRS)?

Page last updated 28 April 2020

Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) is a condition that occurs in a developing baby in the womb whose mother is infected with the rubella virus. Pregnant women who contract rubella are at risk for miscarriage or stillbirth, and their developing babies are at risk for severe birth defects with lifelong consequences. This is especially if the mother contracts the disease during the first trimester (first three months) of her pregnancy. 

About nine in every 10 unborn babies exposed to rubella during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy will have a major congenital abnormality. CRS can affect almost everything in the developing baby’s body, with the most common birth defects including:

  • deafness
  • cataracts
  • heart defects
  • intellectual disabilities
  • liver and spleen damage
  • low birth weight
  • skin rash at birth.

Less common complications from CRS can include:

  • glaucoma (an eye condition that can cause blindness)
  • brain damage
  • thyroid and other hormone problems
  • inflammation of the lungs.

It is important for women to ensure they are immune to rubella before they become pregnant.  Contact your healthcare professional for more information.

Sources & Citations

3. Australian Government. Department of Health. The Australian Immunisation Handbook – Rubella. Available at: (accessed 19 March 2020).

8. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnancy and rubella. Available at: (accessed 19 March 2020).

SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0138(1)a - Date of preparation April 2020