Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that is part of the herpes group of viruses, which can also cause cold sores or genital warts.
It is estimated that up to 40% of the population could have a CMV infection as once somebody catches the virus they will stay infected for the rest of their lives.
In most people the CMV does not cause any symptoms and they will not know they are infected. However, infection can be hazardous during pregnancy as it can cause problems for unborn babies. This is particularly true if a pregnant woman has had no previous exposure to CMV before becoming pregnant.
It is estimated that a third of women who become infected by the CMV for the first time during pregnancy will pass the infection on to their unborn baby.
Only 10% of unborn babies infected with the CMV virus will go on to develop problems, but unfortunately, these problems can be serious.
CMV infection can also cause stillbirths if the infection is contracted during the early stages of pregnancy.
Preventing CMV infection during pregnancy
As there is no vaccine, or cure, for CMV, it is important to take steps to prevent the chances of you becoming infected during pregnancy.
CMV can be spread through sexual contact so you should use a barrier method of contraception, such as a condom, if you are having sex during your pregnancy.
CMV can also be spread if you have infected saliva, or urine, on your hands and touch your mouth. The urine and saliva of children under the age of six is particularly at risk of being contaminated with the CMV virus.
Therefore you should:
wash your hands with soap and water often, particularly if you have been changing diapers, or you work in a nursery, or day-care center,
not kiss children under the age of six on the mouth or cheek - it is better to kiss them on the head, or give them a hug, and
do not share food, drinks, or eating utensils with children who are under the age of six.