Cytomegalovirus infection in pregnancy

Birth Defects Res. 2017 Mar 15;109(5):336-346. doi: 10.1002/bdra.23601.


Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a DNA herpesvirus that is common worldwide. The two known main sources of primary CMV infection during pregnancy are through sexual activity and contact with young children. Primary infection occurs in approximately 1 to 4% of pregnancies, and is mostly asymptomatic in immunocompetent adults. However, primary infection may manifest as a mild mononucleosis or flu-like syndrome with persistent fever and fatigue. CMV can be transmitted from mother-to-child in utero, intrapartum, or during breastfeeding. Intrauterine transmission can lead to congenital CMV infection, a leading cause of permanent hearing and vision loss and neurological disability among children. Congenital CMV transmission rates are as high as 50% in women who acquire primary CMV infection during pregnancy, and less than 2% in women with nonprimary infection. There is no licensed CMV vaccine. Good hygiene practices and avoiding intimate contact with young children (e.g., kissing on the mouth and sharing utensils) have been suggested as an approach to prevent maternal primary CMV infection during pregnancy, but remains an unproven method of reducing the risk of congenital CMV infection. Approximately 1 in 10 infants who acquire CMV in utero will have clinical signs at birth, and an additional 10 to 15% will go on to develop late-onset sequelae. Antiviral treatment prenatally and postnatally has not proven effective at preventing congenital or postnatal CMV infection, and is not recommended for routine clinical care. However, antiviral treatment when initiated in the first month of life for symptomatic congenital CMV infection is recommended for improved neurodevelopmental and audiologic outcomes. Birth Defects Research 109:336-346, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: congenital infection; cytomegalovirus; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cytomegalovirus / immunology
  • Cytomegalovirus / pathogenicity
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / complications*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hygiene
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / virology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects


  • Antiviral Agents