Prevention of Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection during pregnancy

Prevention of Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection during pregnancy

Cytomegalovirus (CMV in brief) is a virus belonging to the Herpes virus family.

It can cause numerous clinical syndromes, among them is the well-known infectious mononucleosis (mono) – a disease with high fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, enlargement of the spleen and the liver and fatigue.

Infection during pregnancy can affect the fetus and may cause him to suffer from complications of congenital CMV such as low birth weight, small head (microcehphaly), developmental problems, seizures, hearing loss, vision problems and many other bad things.

So, prevention of such an infection will save us a lot of worrisome, headache and complication for the baby.

What is a CMV primary infection and what is a non-primary infection?

In Israel (for an example) about 75% of women have had Cytomegalovirus (CMV) during their childhood. Most of them doesn’t know that they have had CMV because who can remember every fever during his life.

But we know that every women can tell her status by doing a simple blood test during the begining of the first trimester that check if you have antibodies against the virus. If you have IgG antibodies – you had CMV in the past. It means that a quarter of the women in Israel get pregnant without having CMV before.

And that is important because if the mother does not have CMV before pregnancy she is not protected and can get infected during her pregnancy and infect her baby (what we the doctors call primary infection). But if the mother has had CMV before, then she has antibodies against CMV, so that even If she will get infected from a different CMV (there are several CMV types) or that her old CMV that stays in the body (like his ‘uncle’ Herpes virus) will wake up, the risk that she and the baby will get infected is low (what we the doctors call non-primary infection).

How to avoid contracting CMV

How can a primary CMV infection be prevented?

Remember that we said that most of us get infected during childhood? Then most of the pregnant women get infected by coming in touch with children, especially kinder-garden aged children. And how do we know that? A very nice Italian study published a few years ago showed that a primary infection during pregnancy can be avoided with four simple steps:

  1. Washing hands with soap after treating children (touching, cleaning their nose, changing diapers etc)
  2. Washing hands after touching things the kids touched before (toys, chairs etc)
  3. Don’t kiss children on their mouth or cheeks. I recommend kissing them with love on their forehead.
  4. No food, drinks and towel sharing with children

Because non-primary infection may be caused by a repeated infection, these steps are useful for that also. Non-primary infection caused by a virus that woke up can not be prevented.

Even if it sounds a little bit tough and distant, believe me you don’t want the emotional roller coaster of having pregnancy with CMV, even if in the end the baby is healthy.

What to do in case you were diagnosed with CMV during pregnancy?

I really recommend using the wonderful site of the Israeli association for CMV pregnancy. That website was created by amazing women who suffered blood, sweat and tears, so any pregnant women with CMV can find information and support.

My site also summarizes a new groundbreaking Israeli study about the effectiveness of a drug named valacyclovir in preventing the baby from being infected from the mother after primary infection. So, use this link in order to learn more.

Remember, preventing CMV (like other diseases) is much easier than dealing with it, so follow the above simple four steps and lets prevent CMV infection during pregnancy.

Stay safe, as always.

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