Toxoplasmosis And Pregnancy: What You Need to Know?

Toxoplasmosis
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

What is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that can affect your pregnancy. This disease is caused by being infected with the Toxoplasma Gondii Parasite. If you’re pregnant, it’s scary. Toxoplasma Gondii is a common parasite. It is a single-celled parasitic organism that can infect cats and all the birds. It doesn’t make any difference if the cat is tame or wild they are the parasite’s ultimate host. If you are pregnant, it can affect your baby.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Toxoplasmosis?

When a person is infected the parasite forms cysts that can affect any part of the body, but Toxoplasma Gondii often affects the human brain and muscles. If you’ve ever had the flu, then you know the symptoms: headache, body ache, fever, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes. If your immunity system is lowered due to HIV/AIDS, or some medications you may have the same symptoms of a severe infection: headache, confusion, poor coordination and seizures. Lung problems may resemble tuberculosis or pneumonia and if you have severe inflammation of your retina it will cause blurred vision.

How Is Toxoplasmosis Spread?

You can’t catch Toxoplasmosis Gondii from another human being like some infections. You can certainly get infected if you come into contact with cat feces, or anything that even touches infected cat feces. Be careful about gardening, since cats usually use the loose dirt in flower beds or gardens.

Toxoplasmosis Spread

If you eat or drink contaminated food or water, you could get infected. The most likely meant to be infected is lamb, pork or venison (deer). Unpasteurized milk may also contain this parasite. In the United States, you most likely won’t find the Toxoplasmosis Gondii in our water.

Using knives and cooking utensils that aren’t washed in hot, soapy water may catty the parasite is they made contact with raw meat. If you eat raw fruit and vegetables, you may consume the parasite. It is always advisable to wash all vegetables and even the outside skins of all fruit before eating them. In the very rare occasion, the parasite can be transferred from one per to another through organ transplants.

If I Had Toxoplasmosis before Becoming Pregnant, is My Unborn Baby at Risk?

Women who have been infected with at least six to nine months before conception develop immunity to Toxoplasmosis and can’t pass it on to their baby.

Toxoplasmosis Risk

Becoming infected with Toxoplasmosis Gondii for the first time, just before you get pregnant or during the third trimester, the baby is at risk of contracting this parasite. This is called congenital toxoplasmosis. Even if the mother doesn’t have any signs or symptoms, the baby can still be affected. The baby is less at risk if you become infected during the late first trimester. A lot of babies who get an early infection of Toxoplasmosis Gondii will be either miscarried or born stillborn. Those babies who survive are likely to be born with seizures, enlarged liver or spleen, jaundice and severe eye infections. Only a few babies who have Toxoplasmosis Gondii during birth don’t show any symptoms until they get to their teens or later. They develop hearing loss, mental disability or serious eye infections.

How Toxoplasmosis can be Treated during Pregnancy?

Toxoplasmosis Gondii can be treated during pregnancy with antibiotics. The earliest you start identifying and treating the infection the greater the chance of preventing infection to the unborn child. The baby benefits from the antibiotics through the placenta.

How Toxoplasmosis be Treated after Baby Birth?

Your doctor will certainly do a blood test to see if you and the baby still have the parasite Toxoplasmosis Gondii. He or she will also give your baby pyrimethamine, sulfadiazine and folic acid (usually taken for one year). Any more treatments will be up to your doctor after taking blood tests.

What can I do to Prevent Toxoplasmosis?

some don’t’s listed to prevent contracting Toxoplasmosis Gondii when you are pregnant.

  • Don’t empty the litter box whether you know if your cat is infected or not. Have someone else empty it. Don’t get a kitten while pregnant.
  • Don’t garden during pregnancy unless you wear gloves.
  • Don’t eat raw vegetables without washing them thoroughly.
  • Don’t cut into fresh fruit without thoroughly washing the skin. The Even fruit you pull the skin off of needs to be washed.
  • Don’t eat rare meat (lamb, pork and game meat). Cook the meat properly.

Final Words

Be careful around. You never know if the cat you got is infected by Toxoplasmosis Gondii, but you need to be very careful emptying the cat litter box. Be extra careful when you’re pregnant because you don’t want to chance contacting this parasite. See your doctor for testing if you think you’ve been exposed.

Reference:

  • Skariah S, McIntyre MK, Mordue DG. Toxoplasma gondii: determinants of tachyzoite to bradyzoite conversion. Parasitol
  • Elmore SA, Jones JL, Conrad PA, Patton S, Lindsay DS, Dubey JP. Toxoplasma gondii: epidemiology, feline clinical aspects, and prevention. Trends Parasitol 2010
  • Dubey JP, Lindsay DS, Lappin MR. Toxoplasmosis and other intestinal coccidial infections in cats and dogs. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 2009
  • Cook AJ, Gilbert RE, Buffolano W, Zufferey J, Petersen E, Jenum PA, et al. Sources of toxoplasma infection in pregnant women: European multicentre case-control study. European Research Network on Congenital Toxoplasmosis. BMJ 2000

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Author

Expert Author : Fouzia Khan (Consumer Health Digest)

Fouzia Khan is a graduate from University of Lethbridge. She has years of teaching and research experience in Computer Science and Engineering. Apart from teaching she is passionate about conducting research, writing, and sharing new innovations of science with others.