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Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy: what are the symptoms and what foods to avoid?

Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy: what are the symptoms and what foods to avoid?

Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy can be dangerous for your child. Here’s what to pay attention to!

Toxoplasmosis is a disease you need to pay attention to if you want to get pregnant. In normal health conditions it mainly occurs as a normal flu and sometimes it is even asymptomatic. However, in a pregnant woman this disease can be very dangerous. It can be contracted through certain foods or through contact with feces of infected animals, particularly cats. Here’s everything you need to know about toxoplasmosis and how to protect yourself from it in pregnancy.

What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a zoonoses, that is an animal infectious disease transmissible to humans. The cause of this disease is the micro-organism Toxoplasma gondii. The symptoms of toxoplasmosis are not easy to identify. In a healthy adult, the disease can be completely free of symptoms.

However, some symptoms resemble a classic seasonal flu: fever, fatigue, muscle pain, lymphadenopathy (enlarged throat lymph nodes), headache.

Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy

Toxoplasmosi in gravidanza
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Toxoplasmosis is not a big problem, unless you have a weak immune system (such as in AIDS patients). It is risky if contracted during pregnancy.

The reason is that this disease can pass through the placenta and infect the fetus, causing serious problems, especially if the maternal-fetal transmission occurs during the first months of gestation. The risks for the child are serious: spontaneous abortion, malformations, central nervous system damages, blindness, intrauterine death.

Since healthy and not pregnant women rarely contract toxoplasmosis, it is important to run a simple blood test (toxo-test) before planning a pregnancy. If the analysis show you have the antibodies for the disease, that means you already contracted it in the past, so there is no risk to have it again.

Otherwise, it will be necessary to repeat the examinations every month during the pregnancy, to ensure you do not contract this disease in that delicate period. There is no vaccine for toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis: infection

Toxoplasmosi e gatto
Photo source:

Cat and toxoplasmosis: Often these two things are related, causing worries, in some cases unjustified. It is not uncommon to hear that pregnant woman decided to give up her cats because she fears she might contract this disease. To better understand how toxoplasmosis is transmitted, it is best to start from the beginning.

You can only contract this disease by swallowing its parasite, which is not transmissible from person to person. The parasites are mainly found in the meat of infected animals, in the feces of infected cats and in the soil or in fruits and vegetables fertilized with soil on which an infected cat has defecated.

The cat is the only animal in which the toxoplasma gondii reproduces itself. Thus, this animal is the primary cause of the disease. However, it is not necessary to get rid of your pet if you find out your going to have a baby.

How to avoid toxoplasmosis?

There are some simple tricks to reduce the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis. The first one concerns your diet in pregnancy: you need to wash thoroughly raw vegetables with plenty of water and baking soda, to remove any residue of topsoil. Do the same for fruits without peel.

You must avoid rare, medium and raw meat. Remember to wash your hands after having touched it. You can eat cooked cold meats, but you should avoid crudo ham, salami, bresaola and smoked ham. Well cooked food is subject to no limitations.

With regard to other sources of infection, you just have to be careful. Gardening is allowed, as long as you are wearing gloves to avoid direct contact with the soil. The same thing applies to cat feces: you can safely clean up the cat litter wearing gloves and washing your hands thoroughly immediately after.

You should also remember that if a domestic cat has no access outside, it rarely has the toxoplasmosis parasite. In this case, it does not represent a source of infection.

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