Pregnancy is such an exciting time in your life, but it can also be stressful if you're worried about your health or your baby's health. Many women worry during pregnancy about whether they will get infected with Toxoplasma, a parasite that lives in cat feces, raw meat, and unwashed vegetables and fruits.
This parasite can lead to severe complications, including maternal mortality and stillbirth if contracted during pregnancy. Here's why Toxoplasma is considered a dangerous infection in pregnant women and what you can do to prevent it.
What is Toxoplasma Infection?
Toxoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by contact with the toxoplasmosis parasite T. Gondii. Most people have no symptoms of toxoplasmosis because their immune system can fight off the parasite or because it only infects specific cells and not others. But people with weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women, can get very sick from toxoplasmosis.
In fact, during pregnancy, toxoplasmosis is considered to be one of the most common causes of stillbirths and congenital disabilities.
That's why when you're pregnant, your doctor will talk to you about getting tested for toxoplasmosis if there's a risk that you've been exposed to it (such as if you eat raw meat or are exposed to cats). If you are infected with toxoplasmosis while pregnant, your doctor may prescribe medicine to prevent your baby's infection.
- She is eating undercooked, contaminated meat.
- Wearing clothes that have been washed in contaminated water.
- Having contact with an infected cat or touching the cat's litter box without wearing gloves and then touching your mouth, eyes, or other body parts before washing your hands.
- Drinking raw milk that has not been pasteurized (heated).
- Infection with toxoplasmosis can occur through contact with another person who has symptoms.
Toxoplasma signs and symptoms
Toxoplasma can cause headaches, stiff neck, sore throat, fever, and muscle aches. Suppose a woman has the signs and symptoms of toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. In that case, she will be monitored for four weeks after delivery or until two blood tests are negative for the parasite. Women with a high risk of toxoplasmosis should consider prenatal care as an additional precautionary measure. Pregnant women with a cat at home should also take precautions to avoid contact with cat feces containing Toxoplasma oocysts.
- Body aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Lung problems
What is the Impact of this Infection on Pregnant Women?
A parasite known as Toxoplasma can be found anywhere from soil to cat feces. If a woman becomes infected with the parasite during pregnancy, it can cause severe and permanent congenital disabilities. The most common form of toxoplasmosis is called congenital toxoplasmosis. Congenital toxoplasmosis happens when a pregnant woman gets an infection from an organism called Toxoplasma.
It can be passed to her baby if she's been infected for about four weeks before she knows she's pregnant. Babies who get this infection may have seizures, become blind or deaf, or have trouble walking or talking. Other problems include miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, blindness, and mental retardation. These symptoms are rare, but all women must know about them so they can take precautions against toxoplasmosis during pregnancy care.
How Can you Avoid Being Affected by This Disease?
We all know that pregnancy care and maintaining good health are necessary to carry a healthy child. However, it seems like one more thing to worry about: Toxoplasma. Here are a few ways to avoid this disease.
- First, if you're planning on getting pregnant, you should consult your doctor or another medical professional beforehand to see if you need any vaccinations or other preventative treatments.
- To prevent toxoplasmosis from cats, try not to change the litter box if you're pregnant or have just given birth.
- Avoid gardening where your hands can come into contact with soil or sand.
- The symptoms of toxoplasmosis include flu-like illness such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, headache, and fatigue. These symptoms usually appear three weeks after someone has been infected, but they might show up sooner in some cases. It is important to speak with your doctor before any treatment.
- Women need to take extra precautions when traveling abroad because their risk of getting infected with Toxoplasma is greater than men.
- Women must take extra precautions when eating undercooked meat due to the risk of acquiring toxoplasmosis.
Toxoplasma can be present in animal feces and soil, and you may become infected when you eat or touch something with the parasite on it, breathe in its spores, or have contact with someone with the disease. Pregnant women are at risk because toxoplasmosis can cause damage to the baby's developing brain and other organs.
The risk of this happening increases if the mother contracts toxoplasmosis for the first time during pregnancy. However, most pregnant women with an active case of toxoplasmosis will not transmit the illness to their unborn child. A woman should consult her doctor as soon as possible if she becomes ill with any signs or symptoms of toxoplasmosis while pregnant.