CMV, or cytomegalovirus (si-to-MEG-alo-vi-rus) is a common virus that is harmless to most people but can be very dangerous to unborn babies. Symptoms can be mistaken for a cold and healthy adults will often not even realise they’ve contracted it. CMV infection before birth is known as congenital CMV.

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Congenital CMV infection occurs when a mother is infected with CMV and it passes through to her unborn baby

About one third of women who become infected with CMV for the first time during pregnancy pass the virus to their unborn babies. About 1 of every 5 children born with the virus will develop permanent problems due to the infection – nearly 1000 babies every year. These problems include hearing loss, physical and motor impairment, seizures, autism, learning difficulties and visual impairment.

Congenital CMV is more common than Down’s syndrome and causes more birth defects than Toxoplasmosis, Spina Bifida or Rubella.

Yet a survey of over 1,000 British women aged 18-44 commissioned by CMV Action* and carried out by ComRes, showed that only one third (33%) of women have heard of it. Nine out of ten (91%) women think that pregnant women should be given advice about CMV infection during pregnancy.

For more information download our CMV: Pregnancy & Prevention leaflet or read our section on What is CMV?

Download our Leaflet

How can I reduce the risk of infection whilst I’m pregnant?

There are ways you can reduce the risk of infection whilst you are pregnant. Although it may be hard to do  all of these things all the time, doing our best whilst you are pregnant will reduce the risk of catching CMV.  This will be for a relatively short period of time.

Avoid sharing cutlery and cups

Avoid putting things in your mouth that have just been in a child’s mouth. When possible, try not to share food, cups or cutlery, or put your child’s dummy in your mouth.

Wash any items which may have been in contact with a child’s saliva or urine.

Wash hands

Wash your hands after contact with a child’s urine or saliva. For example, try to make a habit of cleaning your hands after changing a nappy, feeding a child or wiping a child’s nose or mouth.

Wash your hands well for 20 seconds with soap and water. If you do not have access to soap and water, use hand sanitiser.

Avoid Kissing on the Mouth

Avoid getting saliva in your mouth when kissing a child. You can do this by trying to give more kisses on the head, together with a big hug.

Research into a vaccine is under way but in the meantime it is important to focus on preventing CMV by taking these precautions. Good hygiene by all pregnant women is still the best way to protect unborn babies against CMV infection.

Concerned about CMV in pregnancy?

Some small scale studies have investigated a treatment called Hyperimmune globulin (HIG). This aims to reduce the risk of transmission from mother to baby and to reduce the severity of symptoms in babies that have been infected.

However, the amount of evidence available is limited and the effectiveness and risks of this treatment have not been confirmed. A larger scale study is currently underway.

HIG is therefore not offered in the UK or other countries as routine practice. Some private practitioners in other European countries offer this unproven treatment.

Please speak to your Midwife or GP if you have any concerns.

At CMV Action we can provide our members with a very personal support service:

  • A named individual at the end of the phone or email
  • They can also put you in touch with other families in similar circumstances
  • Our team of volunteer support advisers all have experience of congenital CMV. They are here to talk to you about your experiences, point you in the direction of further information or put you in contact with other parents facing similar issues
Freephone: 0808 802 0030Email: a Member