Babies Born with CMV (Congenital CMV Infection)
When a baby is born with cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, it is called congenital CMV infection. About one out of every 200 babies are born with congenital CMV infection. However, only about one in five babies with congenital CMV infection will be sick from the virus or will have long-term health problems.
Women can pass CMV to their baby during pregnancy. The virus in the woman’s blood can cross through the placenta and infect the baby. This can happen when a pregnant woman experiences a first-time infection, a reinfection with a different CMV strain (variety), or a reactivation of a previous infection during pregnancy.
Most babies with congenital CMV infection never show signs or have health problems. However, some babies may have health problems that are apparent at birth or may develop later during infancy or childhood. Although not fully understood, it is possible for CMV to cause the death of a baby during pregnancy (pregnancy loss).
Some babies may have signs of congenital CMV infection at birth. These signs include
- Premature birth,
- Liver, lung and spleen problems,
- Small size at birth,
- Small head size, and
Some babies with signs of congenital CMV infection at birth may have long-term health problems, such as
- Hearing loss,
- Vision loss,
- Intellectual disability [2 pages],
- Small head size,
- Lack of coordination,
- Weakness or problems using muscles, and
Some babies without signs of congenital CMV infection at birth may have hearing loss. Hearing loss may be present at birth or may develop later in babies who passed their newborn hearing test.
Congenital CMV infection can be diagnosed by testing a newborn baby’s saliva, urine, or blood. Such specimens must be collected for testing within two to three weeks after the baby is born in order to confirm a diagnosis of congenital CMV infection.
Medicines, called antivirals, may decrease the risk of health problems and hearing loss in some infected babies who show signs of congenital CMV infection at birth.
Use of antivirals for treating babies with congenital CMV infection who have no signs at birth is not currently recommended.
Babies with congenital CMV infection, with or without signs at birth, should have regular hearing checks.
Regularly follow-up with your baby’s doctor to discuss the care and additional services your child may need.
- Page last reviewed: June 17, 2016
- Page last updated: April 13, 2017
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