Tuesday, 29 July 2014

My experience with CMV in pregnancy

I thought today I would share about a very turbulent time in my life. It was was over 3 years ago now, but that time still affects me.
During my first pregnancy I managed to catch CMV (which is one of the viruses that can cause deformities to developing babies). Given that in the end everything was ok it is probably a small trauma compared to what others go though, however it felt huge to me.

So some background. I was living in China at the time and 15 weeks pregnant.
 I was not enjoying pregnancy. 'Morning sickness' was all day sickness and I seemed to catch a cold every time anyone sneezed including a bad cold/ flu a couple of weeks previously which had had me bed bound with high fevers.

We got a call from the hospital telling me that my bloods had come back and I had tested positive for CMV, the specialist could see us in a couple of days.
Now I don't know what others would do with that information. The sensible thing to do would be to store it in the back of your brain and wait to see the specialist.
That is not what we did, of course.
We Googled it.
Bad idea.
What we got were lots and lots of worst case scenario stories. Babies with severe deformities and disabilities. My husband and I were shattered. We cried. We did not sleep.
The joy of pregnancy was replaced by an all encompassing fear.
I had just started to feel kicks and each kick served to remind me that there could be something wrong with my baby and that it was my fault (in my mind it was my fault for catching this disease, I know it was disordered thinking and if you are reading this and in a similar situation it is not your fault. You cannot live your life in a bubble and it is not good for you or your baby and it is just bad luck that bad things happen to some people).

So the next day I decided to do some real research so I could be prepared to see the specialist. I have always been a bit of a nerd and math is soothing. So I looked up proper scholarly articles and became an expert on the disease. I worked out given where I was in the pregnancy when I caught it there was about a 10% chance of baby having severe problems and a 60-70% chance baby would not even catch it at all.
While reassured I was still terrified.
What if I was in the 10%? I already had the bad luck of getting this disease, what if it continued? I knew I needed a special test at 20 weeks (amniocentesis) which would tell me if baby had been infected. We decided that I would go back to Australia for this (I had been planning on going back for the birth anyway so I just went earlier).

Cue 4 weeks of worry.
 Knowing that I had caught this disease I became intensely worried about further harming my baby. Farming/ food hygiene standards are not always the best in China (and if you watch the Chinese equivalent of 'a current affair' there are always stories of some food or another having issues).
Every meal became a battle between knowing I needed to get nutrients into my body and fear that food may contain something that would harm me.
For various reasons I was avoiding all animal products, fruit, vegetables, anything cooked outside and processed foods. Which really did not leave much that I was willing to eat. I love food generally and with my morning sickness finally letting up life was a constant battle between cravings and fear. I became a recluse staying in the house avoiding people and situations that I may get sick.

Getting back to Australia was a relief and although my daemons did not go entirely they were more manageable and I was able to have a more normal diet and life.
At 20 weeks the test came back negative and I went on to have a normal pregnancy and baby.

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