CMV and pregnancy can present a critical problem for babies who are infected with CMV before birth. This is referred to as congenital CMV and it occurs when a pregnant woman passes the virus to her unborn child through the placenta, causing birth defects and developmental disabilities. In the United States, approximately one to four percent (1-4%) of uninfected women have a primary (or first) CMV infection during a pregnancy, and approximately 40% of women who become infected with CMV for the first time during pregnancy pass the virus to their fetuses.
Congenital CMV affects one in every 200 babies born each year (approximately 30,000 children annually), making it the most common congenital viral infection
in the United States. Of that statistic, one in every five children born with congenital CMV will develop permanent health problems (roughly 6,000+ children) with as many as 400 infant deaths annually.
Congenital CMV infection is arguably the most common preventable cause of neonatal disability in the United States. More children will have disabilities
due to congenital CMV than other well-known infections and syndromes, including Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Spina Bifida, and Pediatric HIV/AIDS.
Nearly 90% of infants born with congenital CMV appear healthy at birth, and the vast majority will not have any visible symptoms or long-term issues. Health problems or disabilities caused by congenital CMV infection can sometimes appear roughly two or more years after birth.
Infants and children who are infected with CMV after birth rarely present with symptoms and will not be exposed to any permanent problems or disabilities.
Newborn Testing and Diagnosis
Congenital CMV (cCMV) can be definitively diagnosed using polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) testing, if the virus is found in a baby’s urine or saliva, within 2-3 weeks from birth. Many hospitals
, as well as states with CMV legislative
mandates, have begun targeted cCMV screening for newborns who fail their newborn hearing screen.
Congenital CMV can only be accurately diagnosed if the newborn is tested less than 2-3 weeks after birth because, after 3 weeks, it is hard to determine if the baby could have contracted the infection through nursing or by exposure to siblings or others who may be shedding
, or passing, the virus.
If you find out that you became infected with CMV during your pregnancy, talk to your pediatrician about having your baby tested for congenital CMV. The testing is relatively quick, simple and painless, and is covered under most insurance policies.