Pregnant Women Need To Know There's A Common Virus Causing Birth Defects ‑ What Is Cytomegalovirus?

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald April 04, 04:00 am

There's a health risk most pregnant women aren't aware of and it comes from a common virus. It's one that causes birth defects and health problems in babies, which parents only learn after the birth or in the child's early years.

The virus is called Cytomegalovirus or CMV and it doesn't manifest any symptoms, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus, however, is easily transmitted through saliva, tears, urine and breast milk among children, and sexual contact among adults.

A healthy person with a strong immune system keeps the illness at bay without problems, thus CMV often does not require any treatment. Babies in the womb, however, are susceptible to the virus and could develop life-long health issues due to the infection.

Such was the case for mom Kate Daly. One of her twins, William, contacted the virus which left him deaf and developmentally delayed six years ago. Doctors also diagnosed William with mild cerebral palsy, as per Stuff New Zealand.

Later on, the family learned William's twin, Emmaline, also developed a learning disability. Doctors pointed to CMV as the reason.

"I didn't understand why no one had ever mentioned CMV or told us there were things I could do to protect my children from this thing," Daly said. She remembered while she was pregnant with her twins, her then 4-year-old daughter often showered her with kisses.

Daly said she followed doctors' orders diligently while she was pregnant. She would have taken extra care, had she known about CMV.

Mom Kathleen Muldoon went through the same predicament with her second baby, Gideon. She thought everything went smoothly after his birth, but when Gideon's jaundice did not let up, doctors ordered a blood work. It revealed he had CMV, as per NPR.

Further test showed Gideon had brain damage, visual impairment, microcephaly and spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. The virus caused severe damage to his health.

Some 40,000 babies contact CMV yearly in the U.S., as per National Institutes of Health. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends moms should regularly wash their hands after handling other kids' toys, drool or diapers. They should also refrain from directly kissing young children. Learn more about Cytomegalovirus or CMV in the video below.

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