A few weeks ago (okay, more than a few, I’m a terrible blogger!), my lovely friend Becky (The Mummy Adventure) asked me to write a post to raise awareness for CMV.When I first met Becky last February at the Baby Show, she was pregnant with her youngest child, Cora. As we chatted, she told me all about her three older children; Dylan, Archie and Finn. Hearing about Becky’s gorgeous family, I would never have known that Finn was very poorly as a result of cCMV (congenital Cytomegalovirus) as a baby. I’ve read lots about it since then – did you know that CMV is the most common virus to be passed from mother to unborn baby?
What is CMV?
CMV stands for Cytomegalovirus. It’s a really common virus which we’re all likely to catch at some point in our lives, building resistance to different strains without even knowing it. However, when a pregnant woman comes into contact with a new strain of the virus, it can be potentially very dangerous for her unborn child.
According to the CMV Action website, most babies born with congenital CMV won’t have any symptoms at all and won’t have any long term problems. However, it affects almost one thousand babies every year, and causes more birth defects and childhood deaths than Toxoplasmosis, Listeriosis and Down’s Syndrome. Around one in five children born with the virus will go on to have problems such as hearing loss or developmental problems. So it’s definitely worth knowing more about it!
How can my unborn baby catch CMV?
Pregnant women can catch CMV in the same way that anyone else can; through prolonged contact with infected bodily fluids (e.g. urine, saliva, blood, faeces, tears, breast milk, semen and cervical secretions). You can catch the virus by kissing, sexual intercourse, sharing eating and drinking utensils, and sharing toys that have been in an infected child’s mouth. These last reason is why pregnant women working in a nursery setting, or those who already have children, are more at risk than others. An unborn baby can catch CMV through the placenta. This is known as congenital CMV.
How can I reduce the risk of catching CMV while pregnant?
Try not to share food, cutlery or cups with children, as this could bring you into contact with their saliva. Wash any toys that have been into contact with children’s saliva. Try also to avoid kissing children on the lips – kiss them on the forehead or give them a big cuddle instead. If you change a nappy, wash your hands thoroughly afterwards, for at least fifteen to twenty seconds, to ensure they are properly clean. If you can’t get to a sink, then alcohol gel is a good alternative, but baby wipes are not. Wet wipes are not effective against CMV.
I had never heard of this virus at all before speaking to Becky and I had no idea how common it was until I read all about it on CMV Action. Do take a look at the website as it has such a wealth of information; far more than I can write about here on my little blog. It is so, so common and it’s definitely worth knowing about and taking those few little extra precautions if you’re a pregnant woman.