Toxoplasmosis & Pregnancy When You Have A Cat
Toxoplasmosis is an infection you can get from a tiny parasite that can live in cats. Although the infection causes a mild symptomless illness in people with healthy immune systems, it’s risky during pregnancy. In expecting women the parasite may infect the placenta and unborn child. In the United States, researchers estimate that between 400 and 4,000 babies of 4 million births are born with toxoplasmosis. This infection can cause devastating effects, such as stillbirth and neurological damage. Fortunately, there’re a lot you can do to prevent infection.
How toxoplasmosis is spread
Experts estimate that approximately half of toxoplasmosis infections are caused by eating raw or undercooked infected meat. It can also be caused by drinking contaminated water, handling contaminated soil or cat litter, and touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. Toxoplasmosis can’t be transmitted from person to person, except from mother to unborn child and infected organ transplant or blood transfusion.
The effects of toxoplasmosis
In most cases, infected people don’t realize they have caught toxoplasmosis. This infection doesn’t usually cause any symptoms. However, it can cause symptoms similar to glandular fever or flu. People who have been infected with toxoplasmosis, are thought to be protected for life, unless they suffer an impairment of their immune system. This infection can be dangerous to a person whose immune system is compromised or underdeveloped. For instance, a person infected with HIV/AIDS, a pregnant woman or a person on immune-suppressant drugs. The immune system of these people is unable to restrict the spread of this infection.
How to prevent toxoplasmosis during pregnancy
- Wash your hands before handling food
- Wash fruits and vegetables before eating them
- Thoroughly cook meat
- Don’t drink unpasteurized milk, cream or cheese
- Wash your hands after gardening or handling soil
- Wash your hands in case you come in contact with farm animals, such as sheep
- Use gloves and wash your hands after handling your cat’s litter tray, or let someone else deal with it if you are pregnant
Toxoplasmosis blood test involves taking blood from the expectant mother. The blood tests look for antibodies produced by the body to fight this infection. Depending on the type of antibodies found, your doctor can estimate when the infection took place. Local laboratories may refer blood to the Toxoplasma Reference Laboratory to determine whether your levels of antibodies are rising, falling or stable. If you want to know your antibody status prior to pregnancy, consult your doctor to discuss the benefits and problems of doing the test.
How to know if your unborn child has been infected with toxoplasmosis
Further tests can be done to find out if your baby is infected. Tests like Amniocentesis (removal of amniotic fluid by a fine needle from the amniotic sac) and Cordocentesis (removal of the baby’s blood from the umbilical cord) can be carried out. These tests are carried out for toxoplasmosis only if the current infection had been diagnosed by previous blood test on the mother. They are done after 15 weeks of pregnancy. If the result is positive, your baby will be considered to be infected.
If your blood tests positive, spiramycin, an antibiotic, will be prescribed to you. This drug reduces the risk of the infection being passed to your baby, but it’s not active against the parasite. Therefore, it can’t limit damage if your baby is already infected. Combination of sulphadiazine and pyrimethamine will be described if your baby is infected. These are strong antibiotics that limit any damage to your baby.
Meow for now… Kristian