Do you know toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite, which can affect your pregnancy? Toxoplasmosis is an infection that a third of the worlds population currently have, and is caused by the parasite toxoplasma gondii.
Most people – and women who are not pregnant – do not show any symptoms of toxoplasmosis. Those who display symptoms will present very similar to having the flu such as fever, headache, muscle pain and fatigue.
If you transmit toxoplasmosis during pregnancy it can cross the placental barrier to the fetus, which may harm your baby. However it is not always passed onto your baby during pregnancy.
If you have been infected previously you cannot contract toxoplasma again as your body becomes resistant.
Risks of Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy
- If toxoplasmosis is passed across the placental barrier it is known as ‘congenital toxoplasmosis’
- Risk time for infection can be up to 3 months before conception or during pregnancy
- Toxoplasma infection during pregnancy can cause excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain, a smaller than usual head, calcification in the brain, damage to the macula and lens, lazy eye, blindness, epilepsy, and mental retardation to your baby
- Chaudhry et al, 2014 reported the risk of transmission for women in early pregnancy is less than 6% between mother and baby.
- A higher risk was documented by Chaudhry et al, 2014 with women contracting toxoplasmosis in their third trimester, with a 60%-81% chance of transmission from mum to baby.
- There are no risk factors that have been documented between infected mothers and breast-feeding your baby or skin to skin contact.
How do I get toxoplasmosis?
You will need to consume or swallow something that is containing the parasite for it to infect you. Toxopasmosis can be carried by:
- Raw meats
- Unwashed vegetables
- Cat poop or cat litter tray
- Organ transplants
- Unpasteurised milk
Top tips to avoid infection during your pregnancy
- If you find you have toxoplasmosis during pregnancy make sure you are treated straight away
- Test for toxoplasmosis before conceiving
- Avoid contact with cat litter boxes or if you need to touch the litter box make sure you use disposable gloves and wash the litter tray with disinfectant
- Avoid uncooked, cured and raw meats
- Avoid unwashed fruits and vegetables
- Always use proper hand hygiene
- Avoid unpasteurised milks and products made from it, including unpasteurised goats milk and their products
- Cover sandpits to prevent cats using it as a litter tray
- Clean your cats litter tray daily
- Do not touch pregnant sheep or lambs
Management during pregnancy
If you discover you have a toxoplasmosis infection during pregnancy you will need a fertility doctor to administer spiramycin, this is an antibiotic that cannot pass the placental barrier, and stops the transmission from mum to bub. This will need to be taken orally every 8 hours for the duration of the pregnancy. If toxoplasmosis has already passed the placental barrier, treatment will reduce the chances of congenital toxoplasmosis but not prevent it entirely.
The good news is you cannot get toxplasmosis from stroking your friendly furry little pet, so cats are welcome into the family. Just be wary of pusses litter tray.
Chaudhry, A, S., Gad, N., Koren, G., 2014. Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy. ‘The official journal of the college of family physicians of Canada’ 60, 4, 334-336.