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Cytomegalovirus and Pregnancy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What do I need to know about cytomegalovirus (CMV) during pregnancy?

CMV affects both adults and children. Most healthy people do not have symptoms and recover without knowing they are infected. It is important to know that if you are infected during pregnancy, CMV can infect and harm your unborn baby.

What are the risks of CMV to my unborn baby?

CMV can affect your unborn baby's nervous system. CMV may lead to hearing loss, vision loss, or delays in your child's development and learning. CMV also increases your unborn baby's risk for epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

How does CMV spread?

CMV spreads through contact with body fluids, such as saliva, urine, tears, or semen of an infected person. Pregnant women are most often exposed to the virus from young children, especially if the children are in daycare. Women may also come in contact with CMV through sexual contact. CMV can be spread for months to years after someone is infected. Over time, it becomes dormant (inactive) and cannot be spread. In some cases, hormone changes during pregnancy or breastfeeding may cause the virus to become active again. CMV may also become active again when a person's immune system becomes weak, such as with an HIV infection or an organ or bone marrow transplant.

How is CMV diagnosed and treated during pregnancy?

Healthcare providers may test your blood to find if you have CMV. They may also test amniotic fluid to find if your unborn baby has CMV. You may need to take medicines to support your immune system or treat a viral infection. The medicine may also help prevent your unborn baby from getting CMV.

How can I prevent a CMV infection during pregnancy?

  • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands after you feed a child, wipe his or her face, handle toys, or change a diaper. Use soap and water every time. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers. Wash the front and back of your hands, and in between your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the fingernails of the other hand. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first.
  • Clean items that may be infected. Clean doorknobs, countertops, cell phones, and other surfaces that are touched often. Use a disinfecting wipe, a single-use sponge, or a cloth you can wash and reuse. Use disinfecting cleaners if you do not have wipes. You can create a disinfecting cleaner by mixing 1 part bleach with 10 parts water.
  • Avoid contact with body fluids. Do not share food, drinks, or utensils with a child. Wash silverware and dishes with soap and water. Avoid contact with saliva or nasal drainage when you kiss or care for a child.

When should I call my doctor or obstetrician?

  • You think you came in contact with someone infected with CMV.
  • You have a fever, sore throat, swollen glands, or a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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