Toxoplasmosis in pregnant women: symptoms and treatment

Toxoplasmosis in pregnant women

Although this is the first time you’ve heard of toxoplasmosis, it is caused by one of the most common parasites in the world. Toxoplasmosis in pregnant women is dangerous with risks to the health of the baby. Toxoplasmosis is often carried by cats, only in their body can toxoplasma complete its full development cycle. In this article, you will learn about the symptoms and treatment of toxoplasmosis during pregnancy and how to avoid getting the infection.


What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The most common carriers of toxoplasmosis are cats, which themselves become infected by contact with rodents, birds or other small wild animals. The infection can be transmitted to humans through, among other things, cat feces. Millions of healthy adults can be infected with this parasite, but a healthy immune system helps prevent toxoplasmosis symptoms. That is, a person infected with toxoplasmosis may never even know this. In most cases, the infection goes away on its own without any complications. However, toxoplasmosis during pregnancy can cause serious health problems in a baby after birth. If you think you may have toxoplasmosis, see your doctor as soon as possible.


Why does toxoplasmosis occur and how is it transmitted

Toxoplasmosis causes contact with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. Toxoplasmosis is most likely to occur through cat feces, raw or undercooked meat, unwashed fruits and vegetables, and soil or sand. Cats are the main vectors of infection. Most often, the parasite occurs in cats that spend time outdoors, come into contact with soil and sand, and can hunt, for example, mice or rats.

In case of primary infection with toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, the expectant mother may not have any symptoms of the disease, but in some cases flu symptoms may be observed: fever, weakness, chills, swollen cervical lymph nodes, etc. For a pregnant baby, toxoplasmosis can be fraught with serious health problems. If a woman had a toxoplasmosis infection within six months before pregnancy, the likelihood of transmitting the infection to the child remains. If a woman becomes infected while pregnant, the risk of transmitting the infection to the baby is: in the first trimester from 10 to 25%, in the second trimester up to 30%, and in the third trimester up to 90%.


Symptoms of toxoplasmosis during pregnancy

In some cases, with toxoplasmosis in pregnant women, there are no symptoms. But sometimes moms-to-be may complain of flu symptoms such as body aches, fever, fatigue, or headache. If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to tell your doctor about it. If a baby becomes infected while in the womb, in most cases, symptoms will not be evident at birth. But over time, toxoplasmosis can lead to vision and hearing problems, as well as developmental disabilities. Moreover, the consequences of toxoplasmosis can only appear several years after the birth of a baby or even in adolescence.


How is the diagnosis made

If you suspect toxoplasmosis in pregnant women, a blood test is done. The study reveals antibody titers and IgM / IgG immunoglobulins. They determine the duration of infection. When planning a pregnancy, it is recommended to be tested for toxoplasmosis. If the infection with toxoplasmosis was more than six months before conception, then the risk of intrauterine infection is significantly reduced.


Treatment of toxoplasmosis in pregnant women

If you have toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection. The most effective treatment is at the earliest stages of infection, during the period when the pathogen is still present in the blood. The treatment regimen will depend on the length of pregnancy at which the woman contracted toxoplasmosis. If it happened between about 16 and 18 weeks, combined antibiotic treatment may be required.

In order to determine if intrauterine infection has occurred, amniocentesis (collection of amniotic fluid) is performed. If the infection is confirmed in the first and second trimester of pregnancy (up to 16-22 weeks), due to the high risks of disability and adverse outcomes for the fetus, the pregnancy may be terminated for medical reasons. Also, signs of infection can be detected using ultrasound . When the baby is born, a blood test may be taken. If toxoplasmosis is confirmed in the baby after birth, he may be prescribed antibiotic treatment during the first year of life. Your doctor will tell you about possible treatment options for the infection.


Prevention of toxoplasmosis

To avoid infection with toxoplasmosis, you should (for cat owners and not only):

  • Avoid contact with cat litter (if, besides you, no one can take care of the pet, use gloves);
  • Do not let the cat out into the street;
  • Do not feed the cat raw or not fully cooked meat;
  • Use gloves for gardening;
  • Avoid contact with sand (for example, in outdoor sandboxes);
  • Do not eat undercooked or undercooked meat. The safe core temperature for meat is 65–75 ° C;
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly;
  • Wash hands with soap and water after contact with raw meat, fruits and vegetables;
  • Keep the kitchen clean.



When should i see a doctor?

An analysis for toxoplasmosis will not be superfluous to pass in preparation for pregnancy . Your doctor will be able to tell you more about the infection and the test.


How can a toxoplasmosis infection affect a baby in utero?

Infection with toxoplasmosis can lead to premature birth or stillbirth. Among the most common complications for a child are developmental, visual and hearing impairments.


Is toxoplasmosis treated?

It is usually impossible to completely get rid of the parasite. If you contracted toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to reduce the risk of negative consequences for the baby.


Can breastfeeding continue with toxoplasmosis?

Yes. You can continue to breastfeed your baby without risk of infection.

Toxoplasmosis is a potentially dangerous disease, but it is determined with a simple blood test. When planning a pregnancy, it is recommended to be tested for toxoplasmosis, especially if there is a high probability that the expectant mother had contact with the pathogen. For symptoms of toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, it is extremely important to see a doctor immediately.