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Reduce your risk of CMV infection in pregnancy

Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, is a known cause of cerebral palsy, epilepsy, deafness and other disabilities, yet it remains mostly unknown in the community.

What is CMV?

CMV is a common virus. When healthy people are infected they frequently have no symptoms. CMV is spread from person-to-person through contact with saliva, urine, tears, nasal mucus and intimate contact. Infected infants and young children, who may otherwise remain well, can easily pass this 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 (cCMV).

CMV can cause injury to the baby’s developing brain. In Australia, more than 400 babies every year are born with a life-long disability caused by CMV – but despite this, research has found that just 14% of Australian women aged 20-40 have heard of CMV.

Easy ways to care

There are simple hygiene strategies to reduce the risk of CMV infection in pregnancy, which can also reduce the risk of other common illnesses like cold and flu. Proven ways to reduce the risk of transmitting CMV for pregnant women include:
cmw wash hands with care illustration

Wash with care

Washing your hands for at least 15 seconds, especially after contact with urine or saliva of young children during activities like changing nappies, blowing noses, or handling children’s toys, dummies.
CMV kiss with care illustration

Kiss with care

Avoiding contact with saliva when kissing a child – instead, try a kiss on the forehead.
cmv don't share food illustration

Don't share

Not sharing food, drinks, cutlery, toothbrushes or dummies with young children.

Resources to promote CMV awareness

We have put together some helpful resources including tiles and videos for social posts and downloadable brochures.

Visit the CMV Resource Hub

Congenital CMV Network e-Bulletin

Stay up to date with CMV news and research.

Family Experiences of cCMV

A client in her wheelchair on the beach and on the right she with AFL mascot

Catherine and Kirsten

Read more
a family picture in the park

Pam and Christopher

A dog and baby girl sitting side by side on the grass

Miff and Azaria’s story

Bree’s journey

Kate and her twins

e-Learning courses

Congenital CMV e-Learning course for midwives

As a result of a partnership with Cerebral Palsy Alliance, The University of Sydney, CMV Australia and the Australian College of Midwives, a new free eLearning course: Congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV) – Prevention is in Your Hands is now available. Developed with midwives, obstetricians, infectious diseases specialists, researchers and families who have been impacted by CMV, this interactive course aims to update midwives on how CMV can adversely affect babies and highlight preventive strategies for reducing the risk of infection during pregnancy.

GP e-Learning Module

This Infections in Pregnancy module provides an important update for GPs on congenital CMV and syphilis, both of which can have devastating consequences for the developing baby. CMV is the most common congenital infection resulting in childhood disability in Australia, yet less than 20% of Australian GPs are confident in providing advice on CMV in pregnancy. Syphilis notifications in women of childbearing age have quadrupled between 2015 and 2020. Untreated syphilis leads to adverse pregnancy outcomes in about 50% of affected pregnancies.

CMV and cerebral palsy research

Congenital CMV is a known cause of cerebral palsy. Our researchers from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute, The University of Sydney are committed to collaborating with other investigators, professional organisations and advocacy groups to:

  • Understand more about the role of congenital CMV and its relationship with other risk factors for cerebral palsy
  • Increase community awareness of 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
an Asian baby on the shoulder of the mother

This work is possible thanks to partnerships with our wonderful collaborators and funding support through the NHMRC, the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation and our passionate donors.