Cats and pregnancy: Can toxoplasmosis from cats cause miscarriage?
A pregnant person can transmit toxoplasmosis to their unborn baby. If you want to know if cat toxoplasmosis can lead to miscarriage, then this article is for you.
- Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite found in cat feces. Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby and may lead to miscarriage.
- Toxoplasmosis can also affect your fetus during pregnancy by causing premature birth or damage to the brain of the unborn baby. Other common symptoms of toxoplasmosis include fatigue, headache, eye pain, muscle pain, and fever.
- Taking proactive measures like minimizing direct contact with cats, practicing good hygiene, and seeking prenatal screening can help reduce the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis and ensure a smooth journey through pregnancy.
- Going for regular prenatal screening is necessary because it helps in the early detection and immediate treatment of toxoplasmosis.
While pregnancy is a time of joy and anticipation, it also comes with a heightened awareness of responsibilities and health concerns. For women who own cats, one concern that often arises is toxoplasmosis – a disease caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite found in cat feces.
So, can pregnant women be around cats? Well, pregnant women are often advised to be careful when caring for a cat, as cleaning a cat's litter box during pregnancy may increase the risk of toxoplasmosis.
This piece looks at the relationship between cats and pregnancy, the risks of toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, and the steps pregnant people can take to protect themselves and their babies.
What is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is a common disease that affects humans and animals and is caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. One can contract the disease by consuming undercooked meat, touching contaminated surfaces, or ingesting food or water that is contaminated. It can also be transmitted from cats to humans.
Cats are considered the primary host because the Toxoplasma gondii parasite completes its life cycle inside their bodies; the parasite reproduces and forms eggs (oocysts) within the cat's intestines. These oocysts are shed into the environment through the cat's feces.
With the cat feces being shed into the environment and contaminating the soil or water, there is a high possibility of animals, including humans, accidentally ingesting oocysts and getting infected by toxoplasmosis.
Symptoms of toxoplasmosis in humans vary depending on the severity of the infection and can include flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and fatigue.
In severe cases, toxoplasmosis targets people with weakened immune systems or pregnant women and causes damage to their brains, eyes, and other organs. Developing babies are also at risk because toxoplasmosis can cross the placenta and infect the unborn baby. This may cause miscarriage or stillbirth.
Should you stay away from a cat's litter box during pregnancy?
Since the fastest way to contract toxoplasmosis is by touching infected cat feces, doctors recommend that pregnant people avoid handling cat litter boxes if possible.
When a pregnant person contracts toxoplasmosis, there is a possibility of passing the infection to their unborn baby. This transmission leads to a condition known as congenital toxoplasmosis and may cause poor growth, premature birth, or brain damage in a developing fetus.
The effects of toxoplasmosis on an unborn baby largely depend on the timing of the mother's infection during pregnancy; if the infection occurs early in pregnancy, the risks of serious complications are higher.
Can toxoplasmosis from cats cause miscarriage?
Aside from the direct impact on the baby, toxoplasmosis can pose risks to the pregnancy itself. Toxoplasmosis infection can lead to miscarriage, mainly if you contract it for the first time during pregnancy or a few months before conception.
Before handling cat litter, pregnant women should take precautions to minimize the risk of infection. Prenatal screening is also important for early detection, as it allows your doctor to test for toxoplasmosis, especially if you have been exposed to potential sources of the parasite.
What precautions should a pregnant cat owner take?
To reduce the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis and ensure a safe environment for both you and your feline friend, these are simple but helpful tips to adopt:
- If possible, ask a family member or a friend to feed, play with, groom, or bathe your cat daily while you are pregnant. If you can afford to hire someone to do that, please do. Reducing direct contact with your pet can help lower the risk of toxoplasmosis transmission.
- Practice caution when handling cats by washing your hands after touching them. Avoid touching your face before washing your hands.
- Ensure regular veterinary check-ups and parasite screenings for your cat. This can help detect and treat any potential infections early and minimize the risk of transmission.
- Keep cats away from wildlife to reduce the hunting and consumption of rodents and birds, as these can be sources of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite.
Taking these proactive measures against toxoplasmosis will enable you to have a worry-free journey through pregnancy.
Symptoms of toxoplasmosis infection
Toxoplasmosis typically does not exhibit symptoms in both animals and humans. However, if toxoplasmosis symptoms ever occur, they may include:
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
- Eye pain
Knowing the symptoms of toxoplasmosis is important for early detection and proper management of the infection.
How is toxoplasmosis tested in pregnancy?
Tests for toxoplasmosis during pregnancy usually involve a blood test that detects antibodies, which are the body's natural defenses against the infection. This safe and invasive test can be conducted at any stage before or during pregnancy.
However, it is important to wait for about 3 weeks after a suspected infection to ensure accurate results, as it takes time for the antibodies to become detectable. The test can reveal valuable information, such as the timing of the infection, based on the type and stability of the antibodies found.
When to seek medical attention
You should seek immediate medical attention once you suspect exposure to toxoplasmosis or experience any concerning symptoms during your pregnancy. Prompt diagnosis and appropriate management help to ensure the best possible outcomes for both you and your baby.
Reassuringly, it is entirely possible for pregnant women to continue living with their cats while taking appropriate precautions. As explained in this article, you can protect yourself from toxoplasmosis during pregnancy by avoiding direct contact with cat litter, practicing good hygiene, and seeking help with litter box duties.
If you suspect exposure or experience any concerning symptoms during pregnancy, never hesitate to consult a doctor immediately.