During pregnancy, if a mother is infected with cytomegalovirus, the virus in her blood crosses over the placenta and infects her fetus' blood. It is most common for a pregnant mother to receive exposure to cytomeglovirus, or CMV, through sexual contact or via exposure to the urine or saliva of infected children, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CMV is the virus that pregnant women most frequently pass to fetuses during pregnancy, notes BabyCenter. Congenital CMV refers to a case of CMV that a child contracted before birth. Congenital CMV may not cause any problems for an infant, but it has the potential to cause serious illness or death at birth, with complications such as central nervous system abnormalities and enlarged liver or spleen. These children may have long-term health issues, including visual impairment and intellectual disabilities. Some children with congenital CMV may not display any symptoms at birth but may develop complications, such as hearing loss, months or years later.
To avoid acquiring CMV during pregnancy, expectant mothers should wash hands with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds after changing a child's diaper, feeding a child, handling a child's toys, or wiping a child's nose or mouth, reports the CDC. Pregnant women should not share food, drinks, toothbrushes or eating utensils with young children. In addition, a pregnant woman should not put a child's pacifier in her mouth, and she should avoid contact with saliva when kissing a young child. Cleaning toys, counters and other surfaces that have been in contact with a young child's saliva or urine is also an important step a pregnant woman can take to avoid infection.