Cytomegaly CMV & Pregnancy
What does that mean?
During one of the first examinations at your OB Gyn you will be asked many questions. One of them is the question of an additional blood test to determine whether a pregnant woman has CMV (cytomegaly) antibodies and was therefore infected already in the past.
This blood test is a so-called self-paying service.
You have to pay a certain amount of money (usually about 40€) to get this diagnosis.
CMV - The Disease
CMV is a viral infection. The cytomegalovirus belongs to the group of herpes viruses. It is transmitted through the skin or mucous membranes. Its'pathogens are for example found in saliva, urine, blood or seminal fluid.
Like all herpes viruses, the virus remains in the body for life after the initial infection and can be reactivated under certain circumstances, the so-called reactivation. In most cases, the initial infection goes unnoticed.
CMV & Pregnancy
CMV infection is particularly difficult during pregnancy and for people with limited immune defenses (e.g. under chemotherapy or with AIDS). Pregnant women might transmit the virus to the unborn child (congenital CMV infection), where it can cause severe damage. Congenital CMV infection is the most common infectious cause for mental retardation and non-hereditary hearing impairment in children.
An important factor here is whether it is an initial infection or a reactivation. The risk of mother-to-child transmission is much higher after initial infection than after a reinfection or a reactivation. Approximately one in 100 unprotected women becomes infected with CMV for the first time during pregnancy. Studies have shown that slightly more than 50% of all women of childbearing age have not yet been infected with CMV.
Thus, if antibodies of a past infection with CMV are found during blood testing in early pregnancy, the mother cannot suffer an initial infection and is thus significantly more protected than other non-immune mothers. The probability of transmission (through a reinfection) to the unborn child is very unlikely. In order to better assess this probability, the additional examination is offered.
Of course, it makes particular sense if the pregnant woman has a lot of contact with small children. (e.g. as a mother or in her job as an educator or children's nurse). This is because an infection can occur especially when the pregnant woman has contact with small children (when changing diapers and feeding them). Toddlers are often carriers of a CMV infection and this without symptoms. CMV Antibody negative nursery nurses, for example, are often not allowed to work in the toddler area.
How can you protect yourself against this disease?
Objects and surfaces that came into contact with urine and saliva of small children should be cleaned regularly. Thorough hand hygiene (washing hands) is also important, especially after feeding, changing diapers, blowing the nose, etc. Sharing cups, spoons, towels and other objects (such as toothbrushes) should be avoided. Likewise, infants and toddlers should not be kissed on the mouth if possible. And pacifiers that have been dropped should not be placed in the mouth of the mother, but should be rinsed off.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccination against CMV, so prophylaxis is a very important part of protection against this disease.
November 2020 Dr. Christine Krämer
This blog post has been prepared with the greatest possible care and does not claim to be correct, complete or up-to-date.“
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