Pregnant? You Should Know About Toxoplasmosis

Pregnant-Toxoplasmosis-760

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Unless you’re pregnant or have a weakened immune system, you don’t have much reason to be concerned about toxoplasmosis. But if you are, and especially if you have a cat, you should be aware of this disease, which is caused by a parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, which is found throughout the world. 

Toxoplasmosis And Pregnancy

If you get toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, you’re at risk of passing it to your baby. Most babies infected by toxoplasmosis are born healthy. But they can have future health problems such as damage to the eyes, brain, and other organs. 

To prevent complications, talk with your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, or if you have a weak immune system. A blood test can check for the parasite. If you are pregnant or have a weak immune system, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

If you test positive for the parasite, but you’re not pregnant or don’t have a weakened immune system, your doctor may decide no treatment is needed. 

Pregnant-Toxoplasmosis-350How Can I Become Infected? 

If you come in contact with the parasite, you can become infected. This can happen if you:

  • Eat meat or shellfish that was contaminated with the parasite and isn’t thoroughly cooked. The most common are pork, lamb, venison, oysters, clams, and mussels. 
  • Use knives, cutting boards, or other utensils that are contaminated. 

  • Drink water that is contaminated.
  • Don’t wash your hands thoroughly after touching things that are contaminated. This could include unwashed fruits or vegetables, soil in the garden, cat litter, or anything else that has come in contact with cat feces.

The parasite doesn’t absorb through your skin. You can only become infected if the parasite gets into your mouth and you ingest it. If you’re pregnant, the infection can transmit to your baby. 

What Are the Symptoms? 

You might not have any symptoms.  But if you do, they may last for a month or more and include: 

  • Flu-like symptoms 
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Muscle aches and pain

When toxoplasmosis affects the eyes, called ocular toxoplasmosis, the symptoms include: 

  • Reduced vision 
  • Blurred vision
  • Pain, especially with bright lights
  • Red eyes
  • Tearing 
If you get toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, you’re at risk of passing it to your baby.

How Can I Protect Myself From the Parasite? 

Follow these guidelines: 

  • Cook food to a safe temperature. 
  • Freeze meat at temperatures below zero. This can greatly reduce your risk. 
  • Peel or wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
  • Don’t eat raw or undercooked oysters, mussels, or clams.
  • Don’t drink unpasteurized milk.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, counters, utensils, and hands with hot soapy water.
  • Wear gloves when gardening and during contact with soil or sand, which could be contaminated with cat feces that contain the parasite. Wash your hands thoroughly after gardening or touching soil or sand.
  • Have someone else take care of your cat and change your cat’s litter box while you are pregnant. If you have to change the cat litter yourself, wear disposable gloves when you do it. The litter box should be changed every day. The parasite doesn’t become infectious until one to five days after it’s shed by your cat.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after changing the litter box.
  • Keep your cat inside. It can pick up the parasite from hunting or eating infected birds, rodents, or other small animals.
  • Don’t feed your cat raw or undercooked meats. Stick to canned or dry commercial cat food or well-cooked table food.
  • Cover outdoor sandboxes. 

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.