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Cytomegalovirus During Pregnancy

What is cytomegalovirus?

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the most common viral infection that a woman can pass to her baby, either during pregnancy or at birth. If you have this infection during pregnancy, there is a chance that it might harm the baby.

How does it occur?

CMV is caused by a virus. The virus is spread from person to person through contact with infected saliva, blood, breast milk, urine, and mucus. It can also be spread when you have sex. Often adults become infected from contact with young children who have the virus. If you are infected with the virus for the first time during pregnancy, your baby may become infected. If you were infected with the virus before you were pregnant, your baby is less likely to become infected or to have any serious CMV-related problems.

What are the symptoms?

CMV usually does not cause any symptoms in adults. However, you may have flulike symptoms such as swollen glands and tiredness.

Most infected babies do not show any symptoms at birth, but many develop problems later. Newborns infected with CMV before birth may have or may develop the following problems:

  • small size
  • small brain
  • enlarged liver and spleen
  • hearing loss or eye problems
  • jaundice (yellowish skin)
  • calcium deposits in the brain
  • extra fluid that puts pressure on the brain

How is it diagnosed?

A routine ultrasound may show something abnormal in the baby. If an infection is suspected then your healthcare provider will test samples of your blood 3 or 4 weeks apart. Other possible tests are:

  • urine tests
  • tests of cells from your cervix
  • amniocentesis so that a sample of amniotic fluid can be tested
  • tests of samples of the baby's urine, saliva, or other tissue after birth

How is it treated?

A baby infected with CMV might be treated with ganciclovir (a medicine that fights certain virus infections) or hyperimmune gamma globulin (a special antibody therapy).

How long will the effects last?

You may feel the effects of the illness for about 2 or 3 weeks, depending on your general health.

Many children born with CMV infection do not have serious health problems. However, a child born with a CMV infection may have lifelong effects as mild as simple hearing loss, or as severe as mental retardation.

What can I do to help prevent infection with CMV?

  • You may be able to prevent becoming infected with CMV by avoiding contact with the saliva and urine of other people who have the virus, especially of young children. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you have been around young children.
  • Reduce the risk of getting infected during sex by always using latex or polyurethane condoms. Have just 1 sexual partner who is not sexually active with anyone else.

Disclaimer: This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

HIA File infd5316.htm Release 13/2010

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