Blog – Can I Be a Surrogate…If I Haven’t Contracted CMV?

This blog is a part of a series of blog posts we are sharing called Can I Be A Surrogate If…, where we are discussing unique cases where health complications COULD complicate a surrogacy journey or have no impact at all.

girl watching through the window

What is CMV?

Have you learned about CMV? Chances are, unless you were recently pregnant, are immune compromised, or know someone with a weakened immune system, you probably don’t know much about CMV.

CMV stands for Cytomegalovirus, a common virus that once contracted, often lies dormant in your body for life. Most people with a healthy immune system, won’t even know they have contracted CMV and will have no symptoms. In cases where the body shows signs of contracting the virus, the symptoms are mild and can seem like a common cold.

The CDC states that In the United States; nearly one in three children are infected with CMV by age five. Over half of adults have been infected with CMV by age 40, most with no signs or symptoms. The Cytomegalovirus is passed through bodily fluids such as urine, saliva, semen, blood, and breast milk.

pregnant woman with the phone

Risk to Pregnant Women & The Baby

CMV usually poses no cause for concern unless you are pregnant, or your immune system is weakened. Women who develop CMV during pregnancy can pass the virus along to the baby.

When CMV is passed to a Baby during birth, this is called Congenital CMV. Babies born with CMV can have brain, liver, spleen, lung, and growth problems.

The CDC states that one out of every 200 babies are born with congenital CMV. About one in five babies with congenital CMV infection have long-term health complications. You can pass CMV to the baby after contracting the virus for the first time or for repeat cases as well.

In 2003, a study was completed studying CMV and it found the following:

– If the Mother was already exposed to CMV prior to pregnancy, the chance of passing the virus to the Baby is 1 out of 100, which is 1%.

– If the Mother was exposed to CMV and contracted the virus while pregnant for the first time, the chance of passing it down to the Baby is 3 out of 100, which is 3%.

Of this 1% and 3% chance of contracting CMV, the Baby has an even smaller chance of having lifelong complications with developmental issues and hearing loss. The CDC states that one in five babies born with Congenital CMV will have complications related to the virus. This means that 1 in 1000 babies born with CMV will have complications.

cmv and pregnant woman

So now let’s follow this logic and interpret the risk involved. Let’s play out these two scenarios with two different surrogates:

Judith is a first-time surrogate that has 2 kids. She was exposed to CMV a year ago and contracted the virus. She had no symptoms and learned this in her test results from her Clinic when applying to be a surrogate. While pregnant as a surrogate, Judith contracts CMV for a second time. Studies show that there is a 1% chance that the Baby will be born with cCMV (Congenital Cytomegalovirus). The likelihood that the Baby born on Judith’s journey will have health complications is 0.2%.

Sarah is a first-time surrogate and mother of 5 kids. When getting medically cleared by her Clinic as a surrogate, she finds out that she has not contracted CMV, although likely being exposed to it. While pregnant as a surrogate, Sarah contracts CMV for the first time. Studies show that there is a 3% chance that the Baby will be born with cCMV. The likelihood that the Baby born on Sarah’s journey will have health complications is 0.6%.

Studies show that Sarah is more likely to pass the virus on to the Baby during pregnancy. Should a surrogate that is healthy otherwise and has had many successful pregnancies, be turned away from surrogacy because she hasn’t been exposed to CMV?

In our experience, most medical professionals would still clear Sarah for a surrogacy journey whether she has contracted CMV previously or not. Although there is still a small amount of risk involved, we would present this information to the Intended Parents and allow them to decide to continue working with Sarah. If you want more information, please reach out to our team so we can discuss your specific journey as a surrogate.
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