Cat owners treat their cats as a part of their family, and they have a very strong and special bond with their pets. Nowadays, there is a very common question among pregnant women: Is it safe to keep a cat during pregnancy?

Yes, pregnancy with cats can be perfectly safe, but with a few precautions. You should be very careful with your cat’s environment so that it may not get infected with Toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis is a rare but grave health condition and requires a lot of care to lessen the risk factors of getting infected during pregnancy.

What is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis

A single-celled parasite, β€œToxoplasma gondii” causes an infection called Toxoplasmosis in pregnant women. This parasite can linger in the bodies of humans as well as other animals for a longer time period. People with a healthy immune system can surpass the illness. However, those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women have to suffer from several health problems including serious birth defects in babies. Toxoplasmosis does not transfer through direct person-to-person contact, but it may transmit from mother to baby during pregnancy.

Over 40 million people suffer from Toxoplasmosis in the US.

Symptoms and Causes of Toxoplasmosis

The signs and symptoms of parasites in the body appear after exposure. Some general symptoms of Toxoplasmosis in pregnant women include:

  • Damage to the brain, eyes, and other organs
  • Flu with swollen lymph glands
  • Muscle aches for a longer period
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced or blurred vision and redness of the eyes

It is a very severe infection in unborn children. Usually, infected infants do not show any symptoms in the womb or at the time of birth. But they may develop serious eye or brain damage, cognitive disability, or hearing impairment. This infection may prove to be lethal as well. Sometimes no visible signs or symptoms are seen after exposure to the parasite. In such cases, one should consult their doctor, especially pregnant women and people with immunological deficiencies.

What Can Cause Toxoplasmosis?

Cause Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis can be caused due to following factors such as:

  • Eating undercooked shellfish or contaminated meat
  • Accidental ingestion of meat with unclean hands
  • Eating contaminated food with knives, utensils, and cutting boards that have been in contact with raw and contaminated meat or shellfish
  • Drinking impure water containing Toxoplasma gondii
  • Accidental intake of parasites through exposure to cat feces
  • Transmission from mother to fetus
  • Transfer to another person via infected blood transfusions, and infected organ transplant

In pregnant women, cleaning cats’ litter, direct contact with anything that has been in contact with cat feces, and accidental ingestion of contaminated soil can lead to Toxoplasmosis.

Prevention of Toxoplasmosis in Pregnant Women

A few changes in pregnant women’s routines can prevent them from getting infected with Toxoplasmosis.

  • Wear gloves before getting in direct contact with soil or sand.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after gardening or getting in contact with sand and soil
  • Cats are used to of sleeping in their litter boxes, so clean them daily. It is because this parasite can reside in the cat’s feces, but after almost five days of shedding.
  • Pregnant women should avoid cleaning cat litter boxes during pregnancy. If not possible, it is suggested to wear gloves and wash their hands right after cleaning the litter box.
  • Stay away from stray cats during pregnancy, and avoid babysitting new pets.
  • Pregnant women should avoid eating undercooked food.

Treatment of Toxoplasmosis

Treatment of Toxoplasmosis

Pregnant women who suspect having Toxoplasmosis infection must get their blood test done. If the results are negative, they should follow the precautions to avoid getting infected. In case of a positive test, people with healthy immune defense may recover from this infection without any treatment. However, people with weak immunological defense or pregnant women should consult health care providers for treatment plans. Health care providers prescribe anti-parasitic drugs such as pyrimethamine, sulfadiazine, and folinic acid to treat Toxoplasmosis. Pyrimethamine is the most effective drug therapy against Toxoplasmosis.

While toxoplasma gondii does not exacerbate pregnancy symptoms, pregnant women with toxoplasmosis may experience nausea and constipation. Pregnant women may treat constipation with laxatives and home remedies.

Bottom Line

Pregnant women may keep cats during pregnancy. However, you must try to avoid the transmission of toxoplasma. Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite in feces of cats that participate in outdoor activities like prey hunting. It may pass from the cat to pregnant women and show no symptoms during pregnancy or birth, but may develop complications during or after birth. Toxoplasmosis can also cause death in infants. Pregnant women can reduce the risks of getting infected with Toxoplasmosis by following the safety precautions assigned to them. It can be treated with anti-parasitic drugs, including pyrimethamine, sulfadiazine, and folinic acid.

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