Reduce your risk of CMV infection in pregnancy

Mother kissing baby on head

What is CMV?

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that often has no symptoms in healthy people. It is spread from person-to-person through contact with saliva, urine, tears, nasal mucous and intimate contact. Infected infants and young children, who may otherwise remain well, can easily pass the virus on to others.

Therefore, people who care for or work with young children are at increased risk of infection through activities like nappy changes.

If a pregnant woman is infected with CMV, there is a risk that her unborn baby will also become infected. This is called congenital CMV.

Congenital CMV infection can cause damage to the developing baby. In some cases this can result in deafness, epilepsy, intellectual impairment, cerebral palsy and in rare cases death.

Whilst the greatest risk to the developing baby is for mothers with a first time CMV infection in pregnancy, all pregnant women or those planning a family, can reduce their risk of CMV infection.

Five simple steps

Just as it’s recommended that during pregnancy you refrain from eating certain foods, you can take these simple steps to minimise your exposure to the virus during pregnancy.

Family of four and a little son with cerebral palsy

Case Study
When Pam was 26 weeks pregnant, some concerns were raised at a routine check-up. After further investigations her medical team found she had had a CMV infection during her early pregnancy and that the virus had been passed to her baby. Christopher was born with a number of difficulties and went on to have cerebral palsy. In the past four years his smile and personality have been at the centre of their growing family. Now Pam and her family are taking the opportunity to share their story and raise awareness about CMV.

> Read more on our blog

Congenital CMV is a known cause of cerebral palsy

To request CMV awareness materials (e.g. video, flyers) or other information, please complete the form below:

The 5 steps to reduce your risk of CMV infection

Promoting CMV Awareness

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus. CMV infection is usually asymptomatic, but can cause problems in pregnancy if the virus passes from the mother to the developing baby. Whilst most babies born with CMV will not have CMV disease, CMV can cause damage to the baby’s developing brain resulting in long term disabilities including hearing loss and cerebral palsy. Individuals caring for or working with small children are at increased risk of infection.

In 2019 Prof Nadia Badawi and Dr Hayley Smithers-Sheedy from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute, The University of Sydney have been working with some amazing families, CMV Australia, NSW Department of Health, the Australian College of Midwives, infectious diseases specialists and obstetricians to promote awareness of CMV and the simple hygiene precautions that can reduce the risk of CMV infection in pregnancy (e.g. see this Studio 10 interview).

If you would like CMV information pamphlets or posters for your workplace please request them on this page or contact Hayley directly.

Congenital CMV and cerebral palsy research

Congenital CMV is a known cause of cerebral palsy however there is currently little research available to inform our understanding of the role of this virus and its relationship to other important risk factors for cerebral palsy.

Researchers from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute, The University of Sydney are committed to collaborating with our active partners to learn more about congenital CMV and cerebral palsy. Specifically we seek to work with other investigators, agencies and key groups to:

  • Understand more about the role of congenital CMV and its interaction with other risk factors for cerebral palsy
  • Increase community awareness of congenital CMV and the available prevention strategies, particularly amongst mothers and those planning a family
  • Support health professionals to embed congenital CMV infection prevention strategies into routine pregnancy counselling

This work is possible thanks to NHMRC Funding and support from our passionate donors.

Thank you also to Natio for their support of Congenital CMV Awareness Month.

An initiative of Cerebral Palsy Alliance and the Congenital CMV Association of Australia

Cerebral Palsy Alliance logo