Toxoplasmosis In Pregnancy: Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention
Toxoplasmosis is one example of a condition that is usually fairly harmless, that can cause problems in pregnant women. Toxoplasmosis is fairly common in humans and animals. It is a parasite that usually doesn’t cause harm, aside from maybe some light flu-like symptoms. However, if a pregnant woman ends up with it, her baby can be at risk. They may end up with birth defects, or potentially problems when they are older.
Causes and Symptoms
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection (Toxoplasma gondii) that can be caused by a few different things. According to Tommys.org, the parasite can be found in meat, cat feces, unpasteurized goat milk, and soil. A main source of infection is cat feces, and women who are pregnant are directed to stay away from cleaning litterboxes in order to keep themselves safe.
The symptoms of a toxoplasmosis infection may mimic the flu. This includes headaches, fatigue, and a fever. Other more serious symptoms are rare. These include seizures, difficulty breathing, and confusion. If a person is otherwise healthy, they probably wouldn’t even realize they were infected. However, if someone is immunocompromised from a medical condition, or if they are pregnant, there can be serious issues that arise.
If a pregnant woman gets infected, she can pass the infection on to her unborn baby. This can cause birth defects and problems later on in life. Usually, the brain and the eyes are what end up being affected. Sometimes this can cause issues such as brain damage and blindness for the child. If you are pregnant, it is wise to take precautions to protect yourself from a toxoplasmosis infection.
If you are pregnant and suspect you might have toxoplasmosis, you should go see a doctor to get tested. This condition is usually detected by antibodies that are produced. These can be found via blood test. If your test comes back positive, you will likely have to go in again for further testing to see if it has passed on to your baby. If you are pregnant, they may have to administer an Amniocentesis test to check the amniotic fluid for infection. They can also use an ultrasound to check the baby for fluid buildup in the head. If an infection is detected in the baby, the age of the fetus plays a role in what treatment to pursue.
There are some medications you can take if you have been infected. However, if you are pregnant then the treatment may be different. Whether or not your baby has been affected can also play a role in how the infection gets treated.
According to WebMD, There is an antibiotic called Spiramycin that you can take to help prevent the infection from getting to the baby. If the baby has already been infected, then you may be prescribed a combination of pyrimethamine and sulphadiazine. You will likely be followed closely by a doctor.
Babies can be monitored in utero via ultrasound to see if they are developing normally after an infection.
There are certain precautions that can be taken to protect yourself and your unborn baby from this parasite. According to WebMD, these include:
- Proper handwashing after gardening or working with soil
- Proper handwashing after handling meat
- Cooking and washing foods thoroughly
- Staying away from raw eggs and unpasteurized milks
Considering the fact that many cases come from contact with cat feces, there are steps you can take to protect yourself if you are a cat owner. For example, do not let your cat walk on food preparation areas, refrain from cleaning litterboxes, steer clear of unknown cats, and make sure the litterbox is kept clean (this task should be delegated to someone who is not pregnant).
It’s important to take the necessary steps to keep yourself protected from a toxoplasmosis infection.
Although you can get a case yourself and have it not pass to your unborn baby, it is important to be aware of the risks and try to keep yourself safe. Most healthy people may get this condition and not even know it, but as a pregnant woman you are more at risk since the infection can pass to your baby. Taking the steps to reduce your risk will ultimately result in healthier outcomes for both you and your baby.