My doctors estimate that I caught cytomegalovirus (CMV) sometime during the first trimester of my pregnancy with Emma and that is the cause of her hearing loss and cerebral palsy. I first heard of CMV when Emma was 3 months old (for blog post on that, click here), not before or during my pregnancy - and this is something that I take issue with since our doctors warn us to stay away from changing cat litter (toxoplasmosis) and lunchmeat (listeria) while pregnant but do not even bother to test our blood or tell us about the dangers of CMV.
Why do I have such an issue with the silence around CMV? Here are the facts on CMV:
- CMV is the virus most frequently transmitted to a pregnant woman's unborn child
- Approximately 1 in 150 children is born with a cCMV infection, approximately 1 in 750 children is born with or develops permanent disabilities due to CMV
- Each year in the US ~30,000 children are born with congenital CMV causing an estimated 400 deaths and leaving approximately 8,000 children with permanent disabilities
- More children are adversely affected by cCMV than by Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Spina Bifida
Now, aren't those statistics STAGGERING???
So, just what is CMV? CMV is a member of the herpesvirus family that includes chicken pox and and infectious mononucleosis. Once CMV is in your body it stays there for life - similar to chicken pox. CMV is a virus that infects people of all ages and up to 80% of adults in the USA are infected with CMV prior to age 40. Most CMV infections are "silent," meaning they cause no signs or symptoms in an infected person. Transmission of CMV occurs from person to person, through close contact with body fluids (urine, saliva, breast milk, blood, tears, semen, and vaginal fluids), but the chance of getting CMV infection from casual contact is very small.
While researching CMV and learning the facts I couldn't believe our doctors didn't even mention CMV in passing. When I asked my OB/GYN and our pediatrician about it they said that they don't mention it since most people have already been exposed and if you hadn't been exposed there is nothing you can do about CMV since there isn't a vaccine. Other parents have similar stories from doctors and I think it is quite misleading. While it's important to know that no action will totally eliminate the risk of getting CMV, there are simple measures you can take while you are pregnant to reduce the possibility of transmitting CMV to your unborn baby.
- Know your CMV status. Ask your doctor to perform a simple blood tests to determine your CMV status so you know if you and your baby are at risk.
- Do not kiss young children under 5 or 6 years of age on the mouth or cheek. Instead, kiss them on the forehead and give them a big long hug.
- Do not share food, drinks, or items such as utensils or toothbrushes.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after diaper changes or after contact with a child's saliva or other bodily fluids.
- Daycare workers, teachers, etc. should wear gloves when changing the diapers of young children.
Please spread the word on CMV to everyone you know who is pregnant or considering getting pregnant so we can prevent our children from the devastating effects of a congenital CMV infection.
To learn more about CMV, please visit the following websites: