On June 15th 2014 (Father’s day) a tear inducing, commercial-like experience took place when my husband and I found out that we were pregnant. Fast forward two weeks to the moment when we got a call from the doctor, the connection barely audible as I heard, “you need to come in right away, we have the results from your TORCHS (toxoplasmosis, rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex, HIV and syphilis) screening and need to discuss a very serious matter as it relates to your unborn child.” Hours later, as we met with the doctor (and genetic counselor), we learned that I had contracted something called Cytomegalovirus (CMV). Apparently this contraction happened at some point either right before I become pregnant or during my first weeks of pregnancy.
What is CMV? A common virus. So common that nearly one in three children are infected by the age 5 and between 50%-80% all adults will have it by the age of 40. Similar to chicken pox, CMV is transmitted via the bodily fluids of babies, toddlers, and small children. The good news is, once infected, it rarely comes back. Healthy people show little to no signs or symptoms and should not be concerned about the virus unless pregnant. This is where the bad news come in. Much like the recently discussed Zika virus, when contracted during pregnancy, CMV causes congenital birth defects and permanent damage such as Microcephaly, hearing and vision loss, seizures, neurological abnormalities, Cerebral Palsy, and/or enlarged organs. In fact, as noted in this highly informative article, "CMV causes more birth defects and congenital disabilities in children than all other well-known diseases, including Spina Bifida, Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and Pediatric HIV infection. One in every 150 babies is born with congenital CMV. Of those one in five will have the significant birth defects mentioned."
Why had I never heard of this? Because no one seems to have. Despite the staggering statistic mentioned above, it is said that only 9% of women know about CMV including those whose professions revolve around the young (day care and pre-school) and/or sick (hospital environment) where the virus is most readily acquired. I’m sure I don’t need to point out that these professions are dominated by women…
After multiple rounds of testing and results that took nearly a month to come back, we learned that, yes, I had contracted CMV during early pregnancy. Because of this, I was monitored closely, on a weekly bases, with 4D ultrasounds and embryonic brain wave observation.
After the longest 9 months of my life, I was told that I was in the clear and had not passed the virus along to my unborn child. I went on to deliver an extremely healthy Valentine’s Day baby. I never, even for a second, allow myself to forget: I am one of the lucky ones.
To learn more about CMV, visit Stop CMV . I ask you to please read, educate yourself, and share with others. It is time expectant mothers and their families become aware of this this widespread and highly dangerous virus.