Pregnancy is a special period when you need to be more careful about your body and protect it from diseases, because it’s clear that they can adversely affect the child. However, it is impossible to hide completely from illnesses. Toxoplasmosis pregnancy is not an exception. Many mothers immediately panic hearing such a diagnosis from the doctor. But do not worry too soon. First of all it is necessary to find out what the disease is about and how dangerous it is.
This disease is caused by the simplest microorganisms – Toxoplasma gondii. Many kinds of pets and birds are the disease carriers. But the most dangerous in this case are cats. The immune system of an adult person infected with toxoplasma gondii usually does not allow the disease to develop. Thus, toxoplasma exists in the muscle tissue for many years without causing any harm. However, toxoplasmosis pregnancy poses a serious threat to the health of the unborn child. Toxoplasma can penetrate into the vital organs of the fetus, including the brain. In some cases, toxoplasmosis can be an indication for abortion.
How Can One Get Infected with Toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasma carriers include more than 180 species of mammals and birds, including many domestic animals, as well as some amphibians. Especially dangerous source of infection are cats. Only in the cells of their intestines there is a multiplication of toxoplasma gondii, which then are excreted with feces. The period of toxoplasma release by an infected cat is from 7 to 20 days. One infected cat can releases up to 10 million parasites per day. After that, toxoplasma gondii can exist in moist soil at a temperature of 4 to 37 degrees C during the whole year. Therefore, a person can get infected after any contact with the cat, and even with soil or sand contaminated with its feces.
Also, you can get infected with toxoplasmosis when eating meat products and eggs that have not undergone sufficient heat treatment (at least 60 ° C). Infection can also occur because of transfusion of infected blood or tissue transplantation.
Many people have heard about the danger of toxoplasmosis for pregnant women. Hence is the advice to stay away from cats and panic because of any scratch. However, not everything is so scary.
Only a primary infection of the mother with toxoplasmosis during pregnancy poses a threat to the fetus. That is, if you have been infected with toxoplasmosis long ago, then it will not have any effect on the baby. What’s more, even with a primary infection, the risk of infection of the fetus is not 100%. In the first trimester, the risk of infection with the mother’s disease is only 15-20%. In the second – 30%, in the third – 60%. However, despite the fact that the risk of infection with the period of pregnancy increases, the severity of clinical manifestations is reduced.
Therefore, there is no need to give your favorite cat to someone, reject meat and going out, without making sure that you are infected. Keep in mind that only the doctor can make a diagnosis. What you can do yourself is to be careful and follow easy tips for preventing the disease.
By the way, toxoplasmosis is very easy to prevent. To do this, you must follow the basic rules of hygiene:
- Wash your hands before eating;
- thoroughly wash vegetables and fruits;
- eat only well-boiled and roasted meat.
If a cat lives in your house, it is necessary to carefully monitor its toilet: wash and disinfect the litter-box. If possible, minimize the contact with other animals.
Basic Facts About Toxoplasmosis Pregnancy
First, we repeat that only toxoplasmosis, received by a woman directly during the current pregnancy, is dangerous. If a woman has had toxoplasmosis earlier than half a year before the onset of pregnancy, then the future child is not under threat.
If a woman was infected with toxoplasmosis during a previous pregnancy and lost the baby because of it, then six months later she can become pregnant again, without fearing a recurrence of the situation. The antibodies that have already been developed by her body will reliably protect the baby from toxoplasmosis.
Secondly, keep in mind that the risk of infection of the fetus increases with the increase in the period of pregnancy. This is due to the fact that the permeability of the placenta for toxoplasmosis infection increases with pregnancy. Therefore, if you are infected with toxoplasmosis in the first three months of pregnancy, the probability that toxoplasma will affect the fetus is about 15%. In the second trimester the risk of infection of the fetus with toxoplasmosis increases to 25%, and in the last trimester it is almost 70%.
At the same time it is proved that the probability of having a child with severe manifestations of congenital acute toxoplasmosis is higher when the fetus is infected at earlier stages of pregnancy. It happens because the fetus begins to develop its own immunity later, which to some extent protects the baby from the severe course of toxoplasmosis. The course of toxoplasmosis is especially severe, if the infection occurs in the first trimester of pregnancy. In such cases, congenital toxoplasmosis often results in fetal death. If the pregnancy persists, then there is a high probability that the baby will be born with very severe lesions of the nervous system (primarily the brain), eyes, liver, spleen.
Toxoplasmosis and Pregnancy
If toxoplasmosis in a pregnant woman is diagnosed at the initial stage of the disease, the woman is hospitalized. Then the treatment is carried out. The treatment of toxoplasmosis in pregnant women can reduce the risk of congenital toxoplasmosis in the fetus by 50-60%. Despite the fact that these figures seem rather encouraging at first glance, nevertheless, first of all they mean that it is impossible to avoid the infection in half of the cases.
In fact, the probability of giving birth to a completely healthy child with toxoplasmosis infection during pregnancy tends to zero. Even if the birth is normal, the child’s full vision and brain can be preserved only in single cases.
Therefore, toxoplasmosis in pregnant women is considered by many doctors an indication to the artificial termination of pregnancy. Of course, only with the consent of the pregnant woman herself. However, toxoplasmosis pregnancy does not refer to absolute indications for abortion. In order to make a final decision, a detailed examination of the pregnant woman is necessary. But the probability of having to make a difficult decision about the need to have an abortion is high.
All the above said again serves as a confirmation that tests for toxoplasmosis should be taken not after the onset of pregnancy, but before it. This examination will either show that in the body of the woman there are antibodies to toxoplasmosis and there is no need to fear fetal infection, or will show that there are no antibodies. In this case it is necessary to take certain preventive measures in order to avoid getting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. It may also be the case that an analysis of antibodies to toxoplasmosis will show that infection of a woman has occurred recently. It means that there is still a risk of vertical transmission of toxoplasmosis. In this case, it is necessary to wait with conception for at least six months. After that a woman can become pregnant without fear of undesirable consequences.
Is It Always Dangerous to Get Infected with Toxoplasmosis during Pregnancy?
If infection occurs in the first trimester of pregnancy, when the placenta is still weakly permeable, the probability of infection is only 17%. However, if this does happen, the consequences of infection can be tragic: miscarriage, the birth of a dead child or a child with congenital toxoplasmosis (approximately 30% of children).
In the second trimester the probability of infection increases to 20%. The causative agents accumulate in the child’s brain, hitting the eyes and the central nervous system. Soon, the immune system will cope with toxoplasma and destroy them, but some of the nerve cells will remain damaged. Consequently, the risk of developing increased intracranial pressure, mental retardation, epilepsy and blindness increases significantly.
In the third trimester, the probability of infection is already over 60%. But by this time the fetus is already more resistant to the effects of toxoplasma gondii. A child can be born without any signs of disease. At the same time, latent toxoplasmosis can manifest itself many years later.
Toxoplasmosis Symptoms in Pregnancy:
- enlarged lymph nodes;
- weakness, sleep disturbance, worsening of appetite;
- increased spleen and liver;
- in acute form of the disease there is high fever, vomiting, convulsions;
- with chronic toxoplasmosis: pain in the muscles and joints, spasmodic fever, headaches, chills;
- liver and spleen increase in size;
- a rash may appear on the skin.
How to Reduce the Risk of Toxoplasmosis Pregnancy?
It is necessary to refrain from products that may contain meat that is not thermally processed well enough. After cooking meals containing meat, thoroughly wash your hands. It is also not recommended to taste raw minced meat. When working in the garden, wear rubber gloves.
If you have a cat, during pregnancy do not clean its litter-box. It is advisable to take an analysis for toxoplasmosis every two – three months, if before pregnancy the woman did not have antibodies to toxoplasma gondii, and she cannot exclude contacts with cats during the period of gestation. You should also check your cat for infection. If your pet is not infected, then in the nearest future do not let it go outside and contact with other animals.
Observance of all these preventive measures will allow a pregnant woman without immunity to protect herself and her unborn baby from infection.
Thus, it is worth noting that toxoplasmosis is not dangerous for pregnant women who previously had been sick with this disease and who have immunity. When re-infected, they do not even need treatment. Toxoplasmosis will harm neither the future mother, nor her fetus.
A woman, who has never previously experienced this disease, with the observance of preventive measures, may not worry about the occurrence of toxoplasmosis. But if the infection has occurred, the consequences of toxoplasmosis in pregnancy can be tragic, since there is a possibility of losing a child.