Women's Health

CMV: The Most Common Viral Infection at Birth

Each year, about 1 in every 200 babies is born with a common viral infection known as cytomegalovirus. Also called congenital CMV, this infection can present a range of health complications for babies and can even cause miscarriage. If you’re expecting or have recently given birth, learn more about preventing and treating CMV.

What is Congenital CMV?

Congenital CMV is a member of the herpesvirus family. While generally harmless to people with healthy immune systems, CMV can cause severe disease in babies infected before birth. Only about 1 to 4 percent of women will become infected with CMV during pregnancy, but 40 percent of those women will pass it onto their baby via the placenta.

Complications of CMV

The vast majority of babies born with congenital CMV won’t show symptoms at birth or have long-term health issues. However, others may be born with defects or developmental disabilities.

CMV complications can include:

  • Hearing or vision loss
  • Microcephaly (small head size)
  • Mental disability
  • Problems with the liver, spleen, or lungs
  • Seizures
  • Sensory or behavior issues
  • Feeding issues
  • Impaired coordination
  • Cerebral palsy

Babies born with congenital CMV may or may not show symptoms, but the consequences can be serious, so getting your newborn screened within three weeks of birth is important.

How to Prevent CMV

Keeping pregnant women free of infection is the best way to prevent congenital CMV. The virus often spreads through contact with the saliva of small children. If you’re pregnant and frequently around children at home or work, here’s what you can to do protect you and your unborn baby.

Follow these CMV prevention tactics:

  • Don’t share utensils, food, or drinks with kids.
  • Avoid saliva while kissing small children.
  • Never put a pacifier near your mouth.
  • Don’t share your toothbrush.
  • Wash your hands regularly.

For comprehensive care throughout your pregnancy, make an appointment with an OB/GYN at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group. Start planning your birth and visit a CHI St. Luke's Health Family Birthing Center, or make an appointment with one of our pediatricians for congenital CMV screening and treatment.

National CMV Foundation
National CMV Foundation | CMV Prevention and Healthy Pregnancy Tips
CDC | Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Congenital CMV Infection
National CMV Foundation | Possible Outcomes
National CMV Foundation | CMV and Pregnancy: Congenital CMV

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