Toxoplasmosis Symptoms, Risks, and Treatment During Pregnancy
Toxoplasmosis is caused by the Toxoplasma Gondii parasite which is sometimes found in cat feces. In adults, it is generally harmless and often causes no symptoms at all. However, contracting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy can cause serious risks for your baby. It is important to note that it is not only direct contact with cat feces that can cause this blood infection. Contact with infected soil or surfaces, handling raw meats, consuming undercooked meats, and even infected fruits and vegetables can transmit toxoplasmosis.
Why is Toxoplasmosis Dangerous in Pregnancy?
Fortunately, toxoplasmosis is fairly rare. But, if you do contract it during pregnancy, it can cause serious harm to you and your baby. Some of the known side effects of toxoplasmosis disease on the fetus include:
- Pre-term birth
- Lower birth weight
- Neonatal fever
- Retinal abnormalities (including blindness)
- Brain calcification
- Intellectual or developmental disabilities
Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis During Pregnancy:
The most frightening thing about toxoplasmosis while pregnant is that, sometimes, there are no symptoms at all! But, other times, there are clear symptoms of toxoplasmosis in humans. These include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Other Flu-like Symptoms
A combination of any of these symptoms is definitely a sign you should contact your medical professionals and ask them to test for toxoplasmosis.
If there are no Symptoms, how does Toxoplasmosis Diagnosis Work?
If you suspect you have been in contact with toxoplasmosis, a blood test can confirm whether or not this is the case. Some prenatal professionals screen for toxoplasmosis routinely and others do so only on request. If you own a can and are worried you may be susceptible, ask to have a blood test at your next prenatal appointment.
Toxoplasmosis Treatment During Pregnancy:
Once detected, treatment of toxoplasmosis is generally done with a long (often two or three months) of antibiotics and more regular fetal monitoring and ultrasounds.
Do You have Toxoplasmosis Immunity?
If you’ve been living with cats for a long period, it’s possible that you’ve already been exposed to toxoplasmosis and you may have developed an immunity to it. This can be confirmed using a blood test, which will show whether you’ve had the infection and how long since you contracted it. This information is very useful to your doctor in deciding whether or not the infection poses a risk for your unborn child.
How to Prevent Toxoplasmosis During Pregnancy:
There are a couple of very simple things you can do to avoid contracting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. And, as long as you’re careful, being pregnant shouldn’t mean you have to get rid of your beloved cat. Precautions to avoid toxoplasmosis include:
- Never change or clean your cat’s litter box during pregnancy. Delegate this job to someone else in the household.
- Make sure you have an excellent hygiene routine – wash your hands regularly, especially before preparing or eating food.
- Cook all meat thoroughly and order meats well done when eating out.
- Avoid feeding your cat raw meat.
- Keep your cat off the table and counters. Clean counters thoroughly before preparing food. Wash hands again after handling raw meat or after petting your cat.
- Do not get a new cat or kitten while pregnant and do not handle or pet unknown cats and kittens.
- If your (or a neighbor’s!) cat does their business in the garden, avoid gardening. In fact, it’s best to take precautions while gardening whether you know about cats in your yard or not. Always wear gardening gloves and wash your hands carefully after working in the soil.
Frequently asked Questions on Pregnancy Toxoplasmosis:
Question: How does a toxoplasmosis test work?
Answer: Toxoplasmosis is detected using a blood test which needs to be carried out by a professional blood analyst.
Question: Is there a natural treatment for toxoplasmosis?
Answer: No. The risk that toxoplasmosis poses to the unborn baby is really too high to be experimenting with natural treatments. You need close medical attention and to follow your doctor’s advice regarding antibiotics and treatment.
Question: How common is toxoplasmosis in pregnancy?
Answer: Studies show that up to 25% of the world’s population have toxoplasmosis. However, contracting it while pregnant is not at all common. Studies show that around 1 – 5 in 1000 American women contract toxoplasmosis while they are pregnant and that less than 10% of these babies suffer serious birth defects as a result. It is likely that any woman who has regular contact with cats have developed an immunity to the infection and women who have little or no contact with cats are much less likely to contract it.
Question: Can toxoplasmosis be transmitted from human to human?
Answer: Apart from when the infection passes through the mother’s placenta to a baby, it is thought to be rare or impossible for it to be passed from human to human. There have been some cases where it is believed that toxoplasmosis was transmitted through blood transfusions, but, other than that, it is solely an animal to human infection.
Question: How does a cat get toxoplasmosis?
Answer: Cats usually contract the infection from other cats or from eating infected rodents or raw meat. They then shed the parasites in their feces.
Question: Can I get my cat tested for toxoplasmosis?
Answer: It is not really helpful to have your cat tested for the parasite, far better to employ the simple hygiene and food safety routines we outlined above.
Question: Can I get toxoplasmosis from a cat scratch?
Answer: No. The only way you can catch toxoplasmosis is by ingesting the infected material.
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