CMV Infection: The Risks of Hugging & Kissing Your Child When Pregnant

A CMV infection can be contracted by coming into contact with people infected with the virus. If your children have CMV, you may need to avoid kissing or sharing food with them.

When you discover you’re pregnant, there are several things that you might heard you must give up in order to protect your unborn child. These include stopping drinking alcohol and quitting smoking and avoiding sushi! But, should you also abstain from hugging and kissing your other children in order to prevent the spread of infection and CMV viruses?

Dr Preethi Daniel, Clinical Director at the Private GP, London Doctors Clinic has detailed whether you can catch viruses which can affect pregnancy from your other children, as well as detailing any signs that you should look out for if you are concerned.

What is CMV and how is it spread?

CMV or cytomegalovirus is a common viral infection that can affect people at any age. It is similar to the herpes virus that causes cold sores and chicken pox. Once you catch it, it stays in your body for life. You will develop immunity to that strain but there are many strains of CMV and therefore you cannot be protected lifelong against CMV even though most of us have been infected with this virus in our lifetime. An infection with CMV is usually harmless and does not even cause any symptoms. Lots of children get CMV usually from nurseries. It can be harmful however in pregnancy as mothers with CMV can pass this onto their unborn child and cause a condition called congenital CMV. Whilst most babies will not have any issues whatsoever even with congenital CMV, around 2 or 3 babies a year will have deafness or disability because of CMV. In fact it causes more birth defects than Down’s syndrome, Toxoplasmosis (from cat waste) and Listeriosis (from soft cheese).

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As mentioned earlier, lots of nursery age children have CMV and it is mainly spread by coming in close contact with an infected person and their bodily fluids. You cannot catch CMV just by being in the same room as an infected person. Whilst I would not recommend avoiding kissing or cuddling your toddlers, it may be sensible to not share food as saliva can contain CMV. You may want to consider kissing your toddler on their head or a big hug instead. Washing your hands regularly especially after nappy changing or wiping snotty noses, not sharing cutlery and washing toys regularly will help limit the risk of transmission.

What happens if a woman already has the CMV infection before pregnancy?

If a woman already has CMV infection (and lots of us have had it before) before pregnancy and presumably has made antibodies to that strain and fought the infection, then it is unlikely she is going to pass CMV to the unborn child.

What are the symptoms of CMV and what should you do if you are concerned?

Whilst CMV does not often cause symptoms, some women may experience general flu-like symptoms including:

  • Having a fever
  • Aches and pains over the body
  • Swollen glands
  • A sore throat

If visible, how long do the symptoms tend to last for?

Duration of symptoms vary, but typically they can last for an average of 2-3 weeks.

If you have experienced any of these symptoms and are worried, it is be best to speak to book an appointment with your GP. They can perform a simple blood test which can identify if you have a current and active CMV infection. From there they can advise the best course of action and guide you.

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Dr Preethi Daniel, Clinical Director at the Private GP, London Doctors Clinic.

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