Editor's note

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a virus transmitted from person to person via body fluids like urine or saliva. For people with healthy immune systems, CMV is likely to cause only mild illness. But when a pregnant woman is infected, the virus can cross into the placenta to infect her unborn baby, and this can cause permanent disability. Although the risk is small (we believe one or two in every 1,000 babies will develop symptoms from being born with CMV), it can be a worry for pregnant women – especially those who have toddlers at home spreading germs.

Australia’s college of obstetrics has released a new set of hygiene precautions women should take on to reduce their risk of contracting CMV. But GP and academic Brett Montgomery tells us presenting these rules to patients is really tricky. The guidelines include things like not kissing your child on the mouth, not sharing food, drinks or utensils with small children, and keeping surfaces that might have come into contact with kids’ body fluids clean.

But child rearing is messy. Any parent will know keeping a home with small children sparkling clean is near impossible. And putting restrictions on affection between parents and kids is a bit sad.

We don’t yet have strong evidence these hygiene practices are going to reduce the number of babies born with CMV. Before placing extra guilt on already pressured parents, we need to make sure we’ve got good reason to do it.

Phoebe Roth

Assistant Editor, Health+Medicine

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We need a community conversation about balancing the trade-offs. Natalia Deriabina/Shutterstock

Don’t kiss your kids? Questioning the recent advice about CMV in pregnancy

Brett Montgomery, University of Western Australia

Australia's college of obstetricians has warned pregnant women against kissing their toddlers on the mouth or sharing food because of the risk of cytomegalovirus (CMV). But is this advice useful?

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