One of the most important facts about picking a sperm donor was not the color of his eyes or his education level but making sure the sperm was negative for CMV (Cytomegalovirus).

What is CMV?  According to Wikipedia, Cytomegalovirus (from the Greek cyto-, “cell”, and -megalo-, “large”) is a herpes viral genus of the Herpesviruses group: in humans it is commonly known as HCMV or Human Herpesvirus 5 (HHV-5).[1] CMV belongs to the Betaherpesvirinae subfamily of Herpesviridae, which also includes Roseolovirus. Other herpes viruses fall into the subfamilies of Alphaherpesvirinae (including HSV 1 and 2 and varicella) or Gammaherpesvirinae (including Epstein-Barr virus).[1] All herpes viruses share a characteristic ability to remain latent within the body over long periods.

If the sperm sample is not negative or free of the CMV virus, this can cause abnormalities in the baby even before it is born.

Also according to Wikipedia:  For infants who are infected by their mothers before birth, two potential adverse scenarios exist:

  • Generalized infection may occur in the infant, and can cause complications such as low birth weight, microcephaly, seizures, petechial rash similar to the “blueberry muffin” rash of congenital rubella syndrome, and moderate hepatosplenomegaly (with jaundice). Though severe cases can be fatal, with supportive treatment most infants with CMV disease will survive. However, from 80% to 90% will have complications within the first few years of life that may include hearing loss, vision impairment, and varying degrees of mental retardation.
  • Another 5% to 10% of infants who are infected but without symptoms at birth will subsequently have varying degrees of hearing and mental or coordination problems.

The incidence of primary CMV infection in pregnant women in the United States varies from 1% to 3%. Healthy pregnant women are not at special risk for disease from CMV infection. When infected with CMV, most women have no symptoms and very few have a disease resembling infectious mononucleosis. It is their developing fetuses that may be at risk for congenital CMV disease. CMV remains the most important cause of congenital viral infection in the United States. HCMV is the most common cause of congenital infection in humans and intrauterine primary infections are second only to Down’s syndrome as a known cause of mental retardation.[2]

Often when using a Sperm bank, you will be given the option to choose a donor who has tested “positive” or “negative” for CMV.  Although positive CMV samples may be cheaper, you will find that the Fertility clinic that you choose, will ask you to sign a waiver in the event that you choose to use a CMV positive sample.

For our sample, we went the safe route and chose a CMV negative sample.  We didn’t want to run the risk of our child having any complications, no matter how small.


1.^ a b c d e f g Ryan KJ, Ray CG (editors) (2004). Sherris Medical Microbiology (4th ed.). McGraw Hill. pp. 556; 566–9. ISBN 0838585299.

2. ^ (Article: Bio Protection And Licencing in Europe, p.5, Les Nouvelles, March 2000, ISSN 0270-174X)



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