June is National Congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Awareness Month. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it’s important to know about CMV. Here’s why:
CMV is a common viral infection that most of us get at some point in our lives, frequently during childhood. It is usually harmless and rarely causes any signs or symptoms. But if you are pregnant and get CMV for the first time, your baby can get the infection. This can lead to serious illness and lasting disabilities in some babies.
About half of all pregnant women have had CMV in the past. If you’ve already had it, you don’t need to worry about getting it again. Once you’ve been infected, CMV stays in your body for life. Although you can still pass it to your baby, this is rare and usually doesn’t cause any harm to your baby.
What do you need to know?
Most of the time CMV doesn’t cause any symptoms, which means you may not know for sure if you had it or not. Before you try to get pregnant, find out if you’ve ever been infected with CMV. Ask your health care provider for a blood test to know your CMV status. A CMV blood test detects antibodies for this infection. Your body will produce antibodies as a response from this virus. An antibody is a protein your body makes to help protect you from a foreign substance, like a virus.
The test may show:
- Normal results: This means the test didn’t detect CMV antibodies. You will need to follow precautions to avoid getting infected with CMV.
- Abnormal results: This means the test has detected CMV antibodies. Ask your provider if the infection happened recently or if it’s an infection that happened a long time ago. If you had a recent infection this can be dangerous when pregnant. Your provider will test your baby for CMV. If you are not pregnant yet, ask your provider how long you need to wait until it’s safe to get pregnant.
How can you get CMV?
You can get CMV by having contact with bodily fluid from a person who carries the virus. You may be more likely than other people to get CMV if you have young children at home, work with young children, or work in health care.
These precautions may protect you from getting CMV:
- Don’t share food, glasses, straws, forks, or other utensils.
- Don’t put a baby’s pacifier in your mouth.
- Avoid kissing young children on the mouth.
- Do not share personal items that may have saliva, like toothbrushes.
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after changing diapers or being in contact with children’s body fluids.
For more information visit marchofdimes.org and National CMV Foundation.