No wine. No soft cheese. No rare steaks. No runny eggs.
And now, no kissing your kids on the lips while pregnant. OR scavenging food off their plates.
What’s wrong with kissing? And sharing food? According to the experts, it can put you at risk of contracting CMV, a infection that can jeopardise your baby’s health.
What is CMV?
It’s short for cytomegalovirus (Cyto-Megalo-Virus) which is a major cause of childhood disability. According to Melbourne obstetrician Dr Joseph Sgroi, CMV is actually incredibly common and many people will have it without realising it.
Symptoms can include fever and loss of energy but often there are no symptoms at all. In those with a healthy immune system, CMV isn’t really a cause for concern.
However, if you’re pregnant, then it is. You see, babies can contract CMV when they are in the womb.
“Congenital CMV can cause serious health problems, including vision and hearing loss, a small head and brain, seizures as well as growth and learning problems,” Dr Joe explains. In rare cases, CMV can cause cerebral palsy, developmental delay, intellectual disability and even death.
Studies in Australia have shown that out of 1,000 live births, about six newborns will have congenital CMV infection and one or two of those six babies (about 1 in 1000 infants overall) will have permanent disabilities of varying degree. Scary, right?
Step away from the kids’ plates. And their sloppy kisses!
The main culprit of CMV? You guessed it – your kids!
Cytomegalovirus is transmitted via saliva on partially eaten food which means sharing food with your kids should be avoided. Even if you’ve slaved for hours and they’ve barely even touched the food. Even if you’re craving fish fingers like no-one’s business.
In addition to not sharing food or drinks with your kids, you also should avoid swapping spit in any other way possible. Things like sharing a toothbrush, putting a child’s dummy in your mouth or even kissing them on the lips, aren’t recommended.
“Saliva is a common way to contract a disease and avoiding it is best especially during pregnancy,” Dr Joe tells Mum Central.
CMV testing in Australia
In Australia, pregnant mummas are not routinely checked to see if they have cytomegalovirus. It’s only if you are sick or if the ultrasound reveals an abnormality that testing will take place. However, if you do work with young children, then it’s recommended you get tested for CMV if planning to fall pregnant.
The best thing pregnant mums can do? Be aware. And, for the time being, avoid your kids’ sloppy kisses and barely-touched dinners. It’s hard, I know (being six months pregnant and constantly hungry, I eat my kids’ leftovers all the time. Well, I did. Now I won’t be).
Because risking an infection isn’t worth it. So get in the habit of kissing them on the cheek or forehead, keep a spare clean toothbrush in the cupboard and give the kids’ leftover food scraps to the dog.
What else is off limits during pregnancy? Check out the latest guidelines on what’s safe and what’s not.