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Baby Your Baby: Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and pregnancy

Newborn hearing CYH.JPG
Baby Your Baby: Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and pregnancy. (Courtesy the Wright family)

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) - January is National Birth Defects Prevention month. Congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a virus that can cause a number of birth defects. Holly Menino introduces us to the mother of one boy whose battle with CMV was first recognized shortly after birth.

After her baby failed the newborn hearing screening, Abigail Wright and her newborn son, Alex, returned to the hospital two weeks later for a second hearing test. Once again, he failed.

“We did an ABR immediately thereafter and found out that he had profound hearing loss in both ears,” says Wright, founder of the National CMV Foundation.

They then took Alex to see a specialist. Fortunately, since hearing loss is one of the first signs that a newborn baby might be affected by CMV, the specialist knew to test for the virus. Wright says had he not failed his hearing test, they likely would have never known that he had CMV. The results came back and Alex did in fact have the virus.

“The more I learned about it, the more I wondered why I hadn’t heard of it,” says Wright.

CMV is a virus that nearly everyone contracts at some point, but if you get it while pregnant, it can transfer to the baby. If an unborn baby gets infected, it can cause a range of problems and disabilities. Best case, it has no effects; but worst case, a baby can lose his or her life.

“Between that spectrum, of course, is where my son falls. He’s more on the mild range,” explains Wright. “He has profound hearing loss, so he can’t hear at all, but he does have cochlear implants. He also has some balance problems.”

Although Alex is doing tremendously well today, Wright says the first couple of years were really difficult, and it’s taken a lot of work. Early intervention for Alex included therapy almost every day along with specialized schooling.

“Now he’s doing great. All that hard work has paid off. He’s excelling now. He’s doing great, and he’s a pretty exceptional child,” describes Wright.

Wright hopes her story increases awareness of CMV. She encourages pregnant women who find themselves with a lingering cold, a low-grade fever, or swollen glands to get checked for CMV.

If you would like to learn more about CMV and the National CMV Foundation, click here.

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