“So a cold did all that?”

Educate. Eradicate. Vaccinate.
Educate. Eradicate. Vaccinate.

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard that statement. I’d be rich!

Yes. Just a cold, left my newborn son fighting for his life and permanently disabled. It really is that simple, unfortunate and scary.

I’d never ever heard of CMV in pregnancy. I’d heard of toxoplasmosis and avoiding cats. Listeria and don’t eat soft cheese. But CMV and stay clear of toddler dribble, sharing food and kissing? No. Nobody had ever mentioned that.

In fact nobody had ever even suggested a cold in pregnancy could have any significance. So illness? I never bothered to let my midwife know, worried she’d think I was being too soft.

Eight weeks pregnant I’d spent a week feeling rotten with a nasty flu type thing and been back and forth to my GP. Three weeks on, I’d recovered from the flu like symptoms and I discovered I was covered in a rash.  I was super stressed and insisted I went to the GP. Ironically I snapped at my husband as I left  he thought I was over reacting, “these things can make the baby deaf and blind.” (Famous last words!)

I saw the GP and more famous last words followed, “it’s a post viral rash, nothing to worry about.”

So I didn’t worry. I forgot all about it in fact. But that was CMV. CMV that was during that time, irreversibly damaging my baby’s developing brain and nervous system.

My pregnancy was unremarkable but Mike was born, covered in the rash symptomatic of a Congenital CMV infection. I was saddened by the fear and misunderstanding surrounding my newborn and this ‘mystery’ virus.

He was barrier nursed for fear of infecting others. I was barrier nursed for the same. We were told he and I, were a risk to my pregnant sister by one midwife, so we didn’t let my sister near me or the baby.

Crazy reality is that there were people of all ages, in and out of the postnatal ward with the virus and exactly the same ability as us, to share it. The staff caring for us could just as easy have had CMV, as it’s often symptomless in healthy people. We didn’t need barriering away from the world. The same basic hygiene measures we use every day, were all that was needed. Soap and water washes away this virus. That bit is that simple too.

You can find out with a blood test, if you have antibodies from a previous CMV infection, if you are planning a pregnancy or already pregnant. Often your ‘booking in bloods’ can reveal this information, if you insist with your antenatal team. My friends who’ve had babies since Mike, have asked and all, already have the antibodies, pre pregnancy.

I’m sure your midwife will love to reassure you how rare this is, but CMV isn’t rare. I didn’t do anything crazy to catch it. It’s simply a simple cold virus that in pregnancy, is harmful to the developing baby. You have the right to know if you’ve had CMV previously, so you can protect your baby as best you can.

Your unborn baby is safe from the harm of CMV if you’ve had it in life, before pregnancy. When you’ve had the virus before and meet CMV again, your body has the antibodies to fight it and protect your little one.*

Hopefully you’ll find you’ve had the infection and subsequent antibodies but if not, there are things you can do to protect yourself:

- Avoid sharing dummies, cutlery, drinks or food with anyone.

- Avoid kissing young children under the age of 6 on the mouth or cheek. Instead, kiss them on the head or give them a big hug.

- Wash your hands with soap and water after coming into contact with any bodily fluids. Wash well for 15 to 20 seconds.

- Wash any items that have been contaminated by bodily fluids with soap and water.

CMV is spread through bodily fluids and the chance of getting a CMV infection from casual contact is very small. However, a lot of small children catch CMV so women who work with children, or who have a family already, need to be especially careful during pregnancy.

It strikes me that Congenital CMV isn’t talked about through a fear of scaremongering, after all how can you really, truly protect yourself from the virus as a young mum? The problem is, unless we start talking and asking questions of our antenatal teams, progress won’t happen. To stop CMV from leaving children permanently disabled, we need a vaccine but in the meantime we can only educate and #TalkAboutCMV.  If we stop being scared of it and face its harsh realities, we really can move forwards and stop this virus causing harm.

So go on, talk to your midwife or GP! You won’t regret it.

For more information please take a look at, www.cmvaction.org.uk #Educate #Erradicate #Vaccinate

*There is little information about the risks of having a second child with congenital CMV but the risk of having a second baby with CMV symptoms as a result of your original virus reactivating is actually very low – around 0.01% or 1 in 10,000.

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