CMV: The Common Virus You Might Not Know

CMV: The Common Virus You Might Not Know

Only 9% of pregnant women have heard of CMV, or Cytomegalovirus, yet 100% are at risk of it. It’s a silent disease, with most infected people showing no symptoms.
I was 7 months pregnant with my second baby when we went into shelter in place for the Covid-19 pandemic.

I had experienced an uneventful pregnancy with some of the textbook morning sickness and fatigue, but overall, felt great.

At the end of May, we welcomed our gorgeous and perfect baby girl, Melanie.

My husband was able to join me at the hospital, my delivery went well, and I felt so relieved that none of us had been affected by Covid.

During the hospital stay, Melanie failed (or ‘referred’ as they call it) her newborn hearing screen.

We were concerned but assured by multiple hospital staff that this happens “all the time”.

In the newborn haze, I barely noticed a nurse collecting a mouth swab from Melanie for a virus I had never heard of before ‒ something they throw in “just for good measure” when newborns fail their hearing screen.

I wasn’t worried.

We had avoided Covid, how would she have caught anything else?

In this article: 📝

  • How I got diagnosed with CMV
  • What happened after my CMV diagnosis
  • Life with CMV
  • So what is CMV?
  • How does a person get CMV?
  • What are CMV virus symptoms?

How I got diagnosed with CMV

It wasn’t until five days after leaving the hospital and settling back in at home that we received the test results for that obscure virus.

It was called Cytomegalovirus ‒ and the result was positive.

We were quickly rushed to have a second test to confirm, and those results were positive too.

To say this was a shock would be an extreme understatement.

It was a true nightmare scenario.

We had done all offered pregnancy testings and all screenings, so how did this happen?

And why had I never heard of this “common” virus before?

What happened after my CMV diagnosis

What should have been the happiest weeks of our lives welcoming the fourth member of our family became a whirlwind of medical tests: hearing tests, eye exams, ultrasounds, weekly blood draws, and CT scans.

The tests concluded that CMV had caused permanent damage to both of Melanie’s inner ears (she would need hearing aids), as well as liver inflammation.

For the next six months, Melanie was then put on a twice-a-day dose of a strong antiviral in the hopes it would halt any further hearing loss caused by CMV.

While on this antiviral she had to have bi-monthly blood draws and we did monthly well-checks with our pediatrician to make sure she was meeting all milestones.

Life with CMV

Melanie’s diagnosis and subsequent treatments affected our entire family: my husband sobbed as we administered Melanie’s first dose of antiviral treatment; I’m now aware of more pediatric subspecialties than a mother of young children wishes to be aware of; and our 2-year-old would ask if Melanie was ‘going to doctor’ whenever we left the house with her.

Fast forward one year and Melanie has truly amazed us with her strength and playfulness.

She was fitted for her pink hearing aids at 4 months old and is now a happy, bubbly 13-month-old.

If I compare the first year of her life to my son’s, CMV was a thief of the simple joy of the unexpected in the first year.

With my son, I never stressed about when he would meet milestones or how he compared to other children.

With Melanie, everything was under a microscope and any delayed milestones (even by a day!) led to another trip to the pediatrician or referral to a specialist.

Throughout all of this, our family has become stronger in many ways.

Mostly with the new ability to live life with constant unknowns and to be prepared for the unexpected.

CMV is a virus that can cause progressive hearing loss, so, though Melanie was lucky to be diagnosed and treated early, we know we will need to keep a constant watch on her hearing.

So what is CMV?

Only 9% of pregnant women have heard of Cytomegalovirus

Yet 100% are at risk of contracting it.

CMV is the most common viral infection that infants are born with in the United States.

In fact, 1 in 200 are born with a CMV infection.

But so many of us have never heard of it.

It’s what’s known as a silent disease, meaning most people who are infected have no signs of symptoms.

How does a person get CMV?

There are many ways you can get CMV ‒ as for myself, I never found out how I actually got it.

While some people falsely think it’s an STD (sexually-transmitted disease), it’s actually not.

It’s simply passed through close contact ‒ if someone has CMV and you get in contact with their saliva, blood, breast milk, tears, pee, or poo.

So while you can get it from sexual contact, you can also get it from kissing someone, them sneezing on or near you, or even being a shoulder for them to literally cry on.

What are CMV virus symptoms?

Most pregnant women, like myself, are never even aware that we have CMV.

But I’ve been told by doctors that some of the CMV symptoms are:

  • Sore throat
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

Annoyingly, some of the CMV symptoms mimic pregnancy symptoms, so the fatigue and nausea I was feeling may have been signs of Cytomegalovirus, but they could have also just been pregnancy symptoms.

I guess I’ll never know.

In a lot of ways, I wish I still didn’t know what Cytomegalovirus was, but as we’ve all learned over the past year is that the best possible outcome comes from educating ourselves and those around us.

This is the reason I’m sharing our family and, mostly, Melanie’s story, in the hope it helps another mama out there.

And if you think you might have CMV, or you and your little one have both tested positive, know that you’re not alone.

There are many mamas out there dealing with CMV right now.

We’re here.

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