What is a Rubella Titer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A rubella titer is a blood test performed to check for antibodies to rubella, the virus responsible for causing the condition known as rubella or German measles. This test can be ordered in suspected cases of rubella infection, or if there is concern about a patient's immunity status, most commonly in the case of women who are pregnant or preparing to become pregnant, as there are significant risks involved with having rubella in pregnancy. The test requires a small sample of blood sent out for laboratory analysis, and the length of time required for results varies.

Pregnant women may receive a rubella titer test.
Pregnant women may receive a rubella titer test.

In a rubella titer, the blood will be tested for the presence of antibodies associated with rubella exposure or infection. Two different antibodies are looked for: immunoglobulin G (IgG) and immunoglobulin M (IgM). The presence of both antibodies in the blood is evidence of recent infection. IgG antibodies alone are suggestive of immunity, depending on how concentrated they are. In newborns, IgM antibodies alone indicate that the newborn was exposed in utero, and may have health problems like hearing loss.

Health care workers are at higher risk of developing rubella.
Health care workers are at higher risk of developing rubella.

If the levels of IgG antibodies in a rubella titer are high enough, the patient is immune and does not need any treatment. A laboratory may also return a negative result, indicating no protection from the virus, or an irregular or uncertain result, where there are some antibodies present, but not enough to confirm immunity. These patients need another rubella immunization to protect them from infection. If a woman is already pregnant, she cannot receive a vaccination until after the delivery, and will need to be careful about avoiding people who carry the virus. Thanks to widespread rubella vaccination, herd immunity usually provides protection for pregnant women who might be susceptible.

The rubella titer test may be conducted to check for antibodies to the rubella virus.
The rubella titer test may be conducted to check for antibodies to the rubella virus.

The rubella titer can be ordered for health care workers and students preparing for school, as well as pregnant women. These individuals are at higher risk of contracting rubella because of their close contact with patients and the crowded conditions, respectively. If the test reveals inadequate protection, another vaccination can be given.

People can also request titers if their immunization records have been lost and they want to confirm that they have been vaccinated; the other option is to get another vaccination. Being vaccinated while already protected is not harmful and may be easier and more cost effective than getting a rubella titer. Titers are also available to check for immunity to other common diseases, for people concerned about whether vaccines were effective.

There are extensive risks associated with rubella during pregnancy.
There are extensive risks associated with rubella during pregnancy.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Whenever a woman is planning to become pregnant or if she is pregnant, it is wise for her to have a blood test or titer to find out if she has rubella antibodies, or to make sure she is immune to the disease.

If a woman is pregnant and her immunity is questionable, she shouldn't be vaccinated as she might infect her unborn baby. If the fetus is infected, it could have birth defects such as eye and ear problems, and heart and nervous system defects.

Titer tests for rubella may be expensive, but for the sake of pregnant women and their unborn babies, they are essential.


Before they had a vaccine for rubella, pregnant women were scared to death of contracting rubella - and rightly so. Many who got this type of measles gave birth to babies with serious birth defects.

Rubella titer is a very wise test to administer. There are cases where people may have had a very light case of German measles and are not immune and may get it again. Or the shot may have not been effective. In these cases a titer should be done.

The concept of herd immunity is important. There are always groups of people or individuals, who have objections to immunization. So if the majority comply, we ought to be pretty safe.


@MrsWinslow - That's a really good point. Not everyone thinks about herd immunity, but it seems to me like a moral issue.

I'm a big Agatha Christie fan. I saw a Miss Marple video, based on a story I actually haven't read, in which rubella was a motive for murder! A seemingly inoffensive woman was murdered. Turned out that she had carelessly exposed the murderer to rubella during that woman's pregnancy, causing her child to be born handicapped. So years later, she took her revenge!


I want to give a shout-out to the importance of vaccinating against rubella. I know that many parents have had concerns about the MMR vaccine, but for the most part, those concerns have not been supported by good science. If you want to delay for a while, that's fine, but if you don't get it at all, you jeopardize herd immunity.

Why is herd immunity important? Because for some people, the vaccine is not effective. My older sister was vaccinated as a baby, and then when she was in elementary school, she actually came down with rubella. No big deal - it's really quite harmless for kids. When she recovered, she was vaccinated again for good measure.

Then when she was pregnant, she had her titer test. And it showed that she had *no* immunity to rubella! She could have come down with it again. Remember, vaccines aren't just to protect your kid; they're to protect everyone.

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