Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) during pregnancy

3-minute read

Cytomegalovirus is an infection caused by a virus. It is usually called CMV.

CMV often doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms, so you may not know you’re infected. It’s possible for an unborn child to become infected with CMV. This can cause serious problems, although it usually doesn’t. There are ways to reduce the risks.

What is CMV?

CMV is a common virus, especially in babies and young children. It's only carried by humans, not other animals.

CCMV is one of the viruses in the herpes virus family. Viruses from this family cause chickenpox, cold sores and glandular fever. All of these viruses, including CMV, can stay alive though inactive in your body for many years after you first become infected.

How do you get CMV?

CMV is transmitted from person to person through contact with body fluids, such as saliva, nasal mucous, urine, vaginal secretions, semen and breast milk.

About half of all Australian women are thought to have had CMV by the time they get pregnant.

Some women pick up CMV while pregnant. This happens through handling infected children’s toys, dirty tissues or soiled nappies. It is also possible to get CMV from having sex, a blood transfusion or an organ transplant.

Unborn babies can get CMV from their mothers while in the womb. Very occasionally, babies can get infected with CMV during breastfeeding.

How do you know if you have CMV?

CMV usually doesn't cause any noticeable symptoms. However, in some people, it can cause mild symptoms similar to those of glandular fever, such as fever, swollen glands, and a cough or cold.

CMV can cause serious illness in people who are infected with HIV or who are having chemotherapy for cancer. But most people never find out they have CMV infection, or have had it before.

Could I give CMV to my baby?

Yes. If you are pregnant and infected with CMV, your baby could be born with CMV. This is called congenital CMV.

There is a test for CMV infection. It’s recommended that pregnant women who develop symptoms of a viral infection suggestive of CMV be tested. CMV testing should be offered to women who come into frequent contact with large numbers of very young children (eg child care workers).

Even if you don't have any symptoms, you can talk to your doctor about CMV testing if you have any concerns.

How does CMV affect unborn babies?

Babies born with CMV don’t necessarily get sick as a result. But some babies with CMV may be born with a disability, such as poor hearing or vision, or intellectual impairment.

This seems to be more likely in babies whose mothers get a new infection, rather than in mothers who have carried the virus for a long time.

Can CMV be prevented?

The best way to try to avoid getting infected with CMV is by practising good hygiene.

If you are pregnant, it is a good idea to:

  • regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, particularly when caring for children or handling anything with body fluids on it
  • regularly clean surfaces and objects that may have body fluids on them
  • wear gloves when changing nappies
  • avoid contact with children’s saliva
  • avoid sharing food, cups, utensils, or toothbrushes

There is no vaccine to prevent CMV infection.

For more information

Please see your doctor or midwife to discuss any concerns you may have. Further information is available in this CMV factsheet.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2019

Back To Top

Need more information?

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Read more on Queensland Health website

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and pregnancy fact sheet - Fact sheets

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and pregnancy factsheet

Read more on NSW Health website

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection | SA Health

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection in children and adults is usually without symptoms but the infection is thought to remain for life

Read more on SA Health website

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is cytomegalovirus (CMV)? Cytomegalovirus or CMV means "big cell virus" because cells grow big when infected

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) - Better Health Channel

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Cytomegalovirus - Pathology Tests Explained

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) testing is used to determine whether someone with  and  has an active infection

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

Cytomegalovirus | Australian Government Department of Health

Cytomegalovirus is the most common infectious cause and the second most common overall cause of congenital malformation in Australia. However, there is limited evidence to support universal testing of pregnant women for cytomegalovirus. As cytomegalovirus may be transmitted to the baby and can have

Read more on Department of Health website

Ways infectious diseases spread | SA Health

How infectious diseases spread including via air, personal contact, soiled objects, skin, mucous membranes, saliva, urine, blood, sexual contact, food and water

Read more on SA Health website

A guide to blood tests in pregnancy | Know Pathology Know Healthcare

The following guide outlines the different pathology tests available throughout each trimester, and the purpose of your prenatal blood tests.

Read more on Know Pathology Know Healthcare website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.