Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy – toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the parasite called Toxoplasmosis gondii that affects animals and humans, cats being the host of the parasites, allowing them to reproduce in their intestines (that is why cats feces are a prime source of infection). The risks the infection involves increase with pregnancy, so it is a topic of interest for moms.
Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy – how it transmits:
Toxoplasmosis is not spread directly from person to person or from animal to person; the direct transmission occurs only from mother to fetus through placenta. The pregnant women can contact the infection by: eating poorly cooked infected meat, drinking infected water, eating unwashed infected food, touching infested items such as food (raw meat, fruits, vegetables) or the sand from the cat box (then the infection is transmitted by touching your face). The infection is also possible through blood transfusions.
Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy – risks:
Toxoplasmosis is an infection without obvious symptoms or risks for a healthy person, but toxoplasmosis during pregnancy brings with it serious risks, including miscarriage, infection of the placenta and fetus. But the number of infected pregnant women is not high and the infection is transmitted to the fetus rarely.
The risk of infecting the fetus (which may be born with congenital toxoplasmosis) increases with the evolution of pregnancy – if the mother is infected in the third trimester of pregnancy, the risk of fetal infection is relatively high. In the first trimester, the risk of infection is low, which is good news because toxoplasmosis causes the biggest problems right in this quarter, while infection in the last quarter, although less likely, is low risk to the fetus.
The risks regarding the fetus in early pregnancy are related both to miscarriage, as well as problems at birth: low weight, eye problems, abnormalities of organs (especially the brain). Even if there are no visible symptoms at birth, an infected fetus will develop during childhood symptoms such as neurological impairments, cognitive (even mental retardation), motor and sensory – problems with vision and hearing.
Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy – symptoms:
Often, the toxoplasmosis infection does not present obvious symptoms; so, it has the symptoms of a flu:
Muscle pain and headaches;
Sore throat and trouble swallowing;
Swollen lymph nodes (in the neck) – which is the most obvious symptom;
People whose immune system is extremely vulnerable (cancer patients, those with HIV) may suffer severe symptoms related to brain damage;
Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy – measures:
Beware of possible sources of infection – do not eat raw meats and uncooked enough – always cook the meat well and do not taste until it is done; after you cut meat, wash yourself; before cooking the meat it is recommended to keep it frozen in the freezer for several days. Do not eat processed meats – salami, frankfurters, ham, pastrami, unless you boil / fry / grill them. Do not eat raw eggs or raw egg sauces such as mayonnaise.
Wash all food thoroughly before consuming it; always wash the cutlery and the kitchen table;
Drink bottled water and not tap water, do not drink unpasteurized milk;
Wash your hands as often as possible and try to touch your face more rarely, especially when you cook; wear gloves if you have scratches on your hands and cut meat or touch the unwashed foods (vegetables, fruit).
Get rid of flies, beetles and other insects in the kitchen.
The cat – although they exaggerate and say that pregnant women should not sit around cats, the truth is that the sources of infection are different; the cat may be a risk factor only if the woman reaches or approaches the sand of the box in, because the infection is spread by animal feces; therefore, you do not change during pregnancy the sand and place the box in a secluded location. If you need to change the sand of the cat, wear gloves and a mask on your mouth (you can inhale particles) and wash your hands carefully. The sand should be changed every day as during the first hours, the parasites from feces are infectious. Do not allow the cat out of the house! It is enough not to touch the box, not allow the cat to sit in the kitchen and wash after you play with it! However, if you do not have a cat, it’s not the right time to take one. The cat is in turn infected if it drinks infected water, unpasteurized milk, eats raw meat (do not let it outside or to catch mice!) – Thus, you protect the cat as well.
If you work in the garden, wear gloves and wash your hands carefully – the infection can spread by touching the earth (the feces of cats, the parasites reach the ground and survive there for half a year, as in the sand of the box). If picking fruit / vegetables from the garden, wash them carefully with boiling water; avoid picking flowers and keeping them in the house.
The diagnosis of toxoplasmosis is made possible by blood tests; especially if you have a cat or frequent contact with raw meat (work in shops, slaughterhouses), tell your doctor – you can have a blood test that detects the antibodies that fight the infection; if antibodies are found ,you have already been exposed to the infection and the immune system already developed antibodies that have fought against it. This means that the chances of being infected again are very small.
The medical treatment consists of antibiotics that prevent fetal infection; fetal infection will be verified by tests such as amniocentesis (amniotic fluid prevalence) and cordocentesis (prevalence of blood from the umbilical cord), and if the fetus is already infected, other antibiotics will be prescribed; when the fetal infection is detected, you will make regular checks (ultrasound) to check the existence of defects in development.
The born baby that was infected will be treated with antibiotics for a while and monitored carefully because some difficulties may occur long after birth.
In severe cases, when the infection occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy, fetal infection occurred and defects are present – visible during the ultrasound, pregnancy termination is recommended; however, fortunately, such cases are very rare.