Pregnant, Thinking About Pregnancy, or Have a New Baby? What to Know About CMV

Pregnant, Thinking About Pregnancy, or Have a New Baby? What to Know About CMV

This article is for anyone who's pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or has a newborn baby, or is interested in learning more about cytomegalovirus (CMV). The goal of this activity is to help people understand CMV regarding pregnancy and newborns.

You will learn about:

  • What CMV is

  • How CMV can affect adults and children

  • What congenital CMV is and its symptoms and possible complications (additional problems)

  • How CMV can spread and what to know regarding children and pregnancy

  • Questions to ask your doctor

Test Your Knowledge

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, is a type of virus commonly found in people. Nearly 1 out of every 3 kids in the United States will be infected by the time they're 5 years old, and over half of all people will be by the time they're 40.

Once you get CMV, it stays in your body for your lifetime. It can go through periods when it lies dormant in your body (is inactive), then may reactivate, or become active again. For most healthy adults, CMV mainly stays dormant.

Types of CMV Infection

Anyone can get CMV. Types of infection include:

  • Primary: the first time you get CMV

  • Reinfection: getting infected again, but with a different strain (variety) of the virus

  • Reactivation: an earlier CMV infection becomes active again, usually because of having a weakened immune system (your body's natural defense system)

  • Congenital: a baby gets CMV before birth when their mother has a primary infection (when the chances are greatest), a reinfection, or a reactivation while pregnant. About 1 out of every 200 babies is born with congenital CMV

  • Perinatal: a baby gets CMV during or shortly after birth, including from breast milk

CMV and Adults

Most adults who get a primary infection and have a healthy immune system don't know they have CMV because they have few or no symptoms.

When symptoms do happen, they are usually mild and can include:

  • Fatigue (tiredness)

  • Fever

  • Sore throat

  • Swollen glands

  • Muscle aches

But CMV can cause serious symptoms and complications. This is especially true for adults who have a weakened immune system, where it may even be deadly.

How CMV Can Affect Children

CMV can also cause serious complications for children who have a weakened immune system, as well as for babies who have congenital CMV. About 1 out of every 5 children who has congenital CMV will have long-term health problems.

Most babies who have congenital CMV will have no symptoms at birth, but complications can happen months or years later and be lifelong. The risk of complications is greatest if the mother has a primary CMV infection during her first 3 months of pregnancy (her first trimester).

Congenital CMV Symptoms and Complications

Symptoms, when they do happen, and complications of congenital CMV can include:

  • Premature birth

  • Low birth weight

  • Pneumonia

  • Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)

  • Liver and spleen problems

  • Hearing or vision loss

  • Rashes and/or purple spots or skin patches

  • A small head (microcephaly)

  • Seizures

  • Growth or learning problems

  • Cerebral palsy or trouble with muscle tone and coordination

How CMV Can Spread

CMV spreads when you have contact with the body fluids of someone who has CMV, such as their blood, saliva, tears, urine, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. When CMV is active, it can be easily passed to others by:

  • Direct physical contact, including sexual activity

  • Pregnancy, birth, or breast milk

  • Blood transfusions and organ, bone marrow, or stem cell transplants

Casual physical contact, such as hugging or holding hands, very rarely spreads CMV. But you can get it by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after having contact with the body fluids of someone who has CMV.

You're also more likely to get CMV if your immune system is weakened.

CMV Spread: Kids and Pregnancy

One of the main ways CMV spreads is by touching the saliva or urine of children who have CMV, which is why it can spread easily where there are a lot of kids. CMV is often found in places such as schools and daycare centers, and among children and those who have a lot of contact with them, such as parents and teachers.

To help prevent the spread, be sure to practice good hygiene and carefully wash your hands after caring for or touching children. This is especially important for pregnant women and when doing activities where you may touch a child's saliva or urine, such as wiping their mouth or changing diapers.

Talking to Your Doctor About CMV

Talk to your doctor about CMV, especially if you have symptoms and a weakened immune system or are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant.

If you're pregnant, your doctor may recommend tests to see if your immune system has made antibodies to help fight a current or past CMV infection. If you have a primary CMV infection, your doctor may recommend certain tests before your baby is born (prenatal tests) to check for congenital CMV.

Babies can be tested for congenital CMV after they're born, but it needs to be before they're 3 weeks old. If your doctor thinks you may have a CMV infection, your baby should be tested as soon as possible.


Lisa talks about her family's journey with CMV.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Questions you can ask your doctor about CMV can include:

  • What should I know about CMV if I'm pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or have a newborn baby?

  • Are there any CMV symptoms that I should look for?

  • What should I know about getting tested for CMV or getting my baby tested?

  • Where can I find more information and resources?

Test Your Knowledge


You have successfully completed the program Pregnant, Thinking About Pregnancy, or Have a New Baby? What to Know About CMV.

View Additional Materials on this topic that you may find useful:

CMV Fact Sheet for Pregnant Women and Parents

Resources for Pregnant Women and Parents

Babies Born With CMV

Frequent Questions About Hand Hygiene

Clinical Trials Database

PDF Downloads

Patient Handout

Authors and Disclosures

Clinician Reviewer

Karen Badal, MD, MPH

Senior Medical Education Director, Medscape, LLC.

Disclosure: Karen Badal, MD, MPH, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh

Associate Director, Content Development, Medscape, LLC.

Disclosure: Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


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