When you’re pregnant, your baby is naturally protected from some of the illnesses you may be exposed to, such as a cold or the flu. But in certain cases, an illness can cross the placenta to your baby. This is the case with an infection known as toxoplasmosis.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite that can infect your body through food, soil, and cat litter. A normal, healthy immune system can usually keep the parasite at bay, so many people never know they have it. But if you get it while pregnant, you and your baby could get infected with the parasite, and it could make your baby very sick. In the most severe cases, it can result in miscarriage or stillbirth. But if you educate yourself on toxoplasmosis and how to avoid it, your chances of contracting it are very low.
How you get toxoplasmosis
The most well-known cause of toxoplasmosis is infected cat feces. So, many people mistakenly think if they don’t have a cat or don’t change the cat’s litter themselves, they aren’t at risk. But you can also get toxoplasmosis from infected food, soil, and water. If you eat raw or undercooked meat with the parasite, drink contaminated water, or handle contaminated soil, you can also get toxoplasmosis.
How to avoid it
The good news is, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself from toxoplasmosis, even if you own a cat and have to change the litter. Here are some ways you can keep yourself and your baby safe:
- If you have a cat and must change the litter, wear disposable gloves and keep any contact with the litter to a minimum. Throw it away immediately and wash hands thoroughly afterwards. Change litter every day, as it takes one to five days for the parasite to become infectious.
- Don’t play with stray cats, and keep your own cat indoors.
- Make sure all meat is cooked to proper temperature before you eat it. Invest in a reliable meat thermometer, and check the temperature when you think it’s done. If you’re eating out, ask for steaks and other meats to be cooked “well.”
- Wash your hands well before you eat, and after handling raw meat.
- Wash fresh fruits and vegetables very well.
- Wash countertops and cutting boards with soap and hot water before and after preparing food on them.
- Wear gloves when gardening, and wash hands thoroughly afterwards.
- Don’t consume untreated water, or water that you’re not sure is safe (this is sometimes the case in less developed countries).
With a few simple preventive measures, you can help prevent a toxoplasmosis infection. In addition, following good handwashing and meat-preparation guidelines will help keep you and your entire family healthy.
CarePoint Health Family Birth Centers
CarePoint Health is dedicated to providing you with the individual care and attention you need so you can relax and focus on what is most important — the birth of your new baby. To learn more about caring for yourself and your baby during pregnancy, view our list of upcoming classes.
Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.