Pregnancy / Childbirth

Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy

Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy


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Some believe that it is better to undergo toxoplasmosis before pregnancy than then worrying that the disease will attack the child.

On the other hand, doctors argue that if we haven't got sick for a dozen or so or several dozen years, then it is unlikely that you will become pregnant. We would have to change our lifestyle completely to risk getting sick or ... to be unlucky.

What is the good news? It has been proven that women who have undergone toxoplasmosis before becoming pregnant cannot infect the fetus. Secondly, there are certain rules that significantly reduce the risk of developing toxoplasmosis.

However, can you feel safe following them? When is the disease particularly dangerous for a pregnant woman?

Toxoplasmosis - routes of infection


It is widely believed that toxoplasmosis can be infected from cats. That's right (more on this topic). Most cats' faeces contain parasites that can cause toxoplasmosis.

The cat is the primary host of the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. Protozoan cysts in cat faeces can survive for a long time. Not everyone, however, realizes that toxoplasmosis can also be infected from birds, which may be an intermediate host: therefore, when pregnant, it is worth paying attention to wash your hands well after feeding the birds in the old town (and preferably if you can, it is worth letting go of this type of pleasure during pregnancy).

The parasite can also be contaminated raw meat. How? Cysts can be transferred to them even by flies flying between the cat's litter box and raw meat prepared for dinner.

The parasite is also able to get through through damaged skin. In this case, butchers, veterinarians and laboratory staff are most often exposed to the disease.

In Poland, it counteracts anti toxoplasma gondi in about 50% of the population.
70% of cats are infected with protozoa and excrete cysts in their faeces.
Each year, 200-400 cases of primary toxoplasmosis are reported in children (who became ill during pregnancy, infecting from the mother).
In 80% of cases, people become infected with toxoplasmosis by eating undercooked meat.

Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy symptoms

The course of toxoplasmosis in pregnancy can be completely asymptomatic. That is why an infected woman often has no idea that a protozoal has entered her body and explores various organs: starting from lymph nodes, through striated muscles, then attacking smooth muscles, and sometimes even the brain, eyeballs or spinal cord.

Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy may also have flu-like course. In this case, muscle pain and enlarged lymph nodes are observed. The most dangerous is infection in the first trimester, when the infection causes inflammation of the placenta and transmission of the infection to the child.

In the first trimester there is the greatest risk of congenital toxoplasmosis in a child: it is estimated at 75%, in the second trimester this value decreases to 50%, and in the third trimester to 5%.

Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy - risk to the child

The greatest risk to a child occurs when when toxoplasmosis is infected by a woman in the first trimester. Toxoplasmosis infection can lead to fetal miscarriage and death.

A woman's toxoplasmosis infection does not necessarily mean that the child will also fall ill. Symptoms appear in 10% of infected fetuses. The most common symptoms include hydrocephalus, microcephaly, retinitis, significant mental retardation in child development. Other consequences may be thrombocytopenia, liver or spleen enlargement. In addition, there is a risk premature delivery and that the baby will be born with a low birth weight.

The less advanced the pregnancy, the more severe the risk of developing toxoplasmosis in pregnancy is the more serious the consequences for a child.

Has your doctor ordered a toxoplasmosis test? And did he also give you a referral for cytomegalovirus testing?? It is a dangerous disease, which is rarely spoken of in Poland. Read why and how you can protect yourself against it!

Some risk from toxoplasmosis infection also exists after delivery. About 8% of all children infected with protozoa die. On the other hand, 70% have no symptoms of the disease. This is not recognized or treated. Only in some children in the later period of development can the hearing or sight defect caused by primary toxoplasmosis occur.

Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy

At the first visit to the pregnancy, the doctor usually orders a test to assess the level of two antibodies: IgM and IgG, which can be used to check whether a woman has undergone toxoplasmosis or whether the disease does not develop in her body at the time of taking blood.
How should toxoplasmosis results be interpreted?

IgG (-), IgM (-) - this result means a lack of immunity, usually a check-up is every 3 months, but some doctors decide to check in the first and third trimesters. There are also those who practice only one-time determination of the level of antibodies (in the first trimester), recommending to the woman preventive action that protects against infection.
IgG (+), IgM (-) - indicates past infection. If the result indicates that IgG is significantly elevated, the test should be repeated three weeks after it was performed. If during the tests it turns out that the level is the same, then you do not need to enter treatment. However, if it turns out that the number of antibodies increases, you should start treatment.
IgG (+), IgM (+) - in the presence of symptoms of disease, treatment should be started. In the absence of symptoms, it is advisable to repeat the test after three weeks.
IgG (-), IgM (+) - it is a non-specific result, it requires an inspection after three weeks, if the result turns out to be the same, an inspection in three months is indicated.

How to avoid toxoplasmosis infection in pregnancy?

  • Wash meat, fruit and vegetables thoroughly
  • Make sure that the meat eaten is well baked or cooked. Beef, lamb, steaks should have a temperature inside of at least 60 degrees, pork, ground game: at least 70 degrees, and poultry 80 degrees C.
  • Do not eat raw meat (tartare, carpaccio) or only smoked sausages.
  • To be sure, you can store meat before consumption in the freezer (low temperature destroys protozoan cysts).
  • Remember to thoroughly clean any surfaces that come into contact with meat, preferably replace wooden boards with glass ones.
  • Don't eat fruit straight from the bush,
  • If you are resting on holidays abroad, try to drink water from twisted bottles.
  • If you have a cat, hand over the litter box to your partner or other household member. If you have to do it yourself, remember to put on protective gloves and wash your hands thoroughly when you're done. In addition, it is worth ensuring that the domestic cat eats dry food that will not be a carrier of parasites or canned food.
  • Don't be afraid of playing with your own cat. In a special way, take care of hygiene and wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Cutlery and dishes should be washed with warm water and detergent, especially if you are concerned that they may have come in contact with the parasite.
  • Wear gloves when working in the garden. Parasite cysts can find shelter in the ground.

Treatment of toxoplasmosis in pregnancy

Although some sources suggest that the parasite can be removed by using a dietary supplement, it is not worth trusting them, putting your and your baby's health at risk. Definitely more effective, but unfortunately invasive way is reaching for an antibiotic (this is prescribed by a doctor). The tablets are taken each day until dissolved.



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