Toxoplasmosis & its Affects During Pregnancy

Toxoplasmosis or the Congenital Toxoplasmosis is an infection that is caused by the Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite is known to cause flu like symptoms and is generally unnoticed in non-pregnant women.

The Toxoplasma Gondii causes a mild fever and illness which is similar to the glandular fever and swollen lymph nodes but is a very risky infection when it comes to pregnant women. In pregnant women the parasite can travel to the placenta and can cause harm to the unborn baby.

The research has it that almost for every 4 million child births there are about 400 to 4000 cases of babies born with the Toxoplasmosis disease. The infection can be varied in degrees and can cause mild or severe effect on the baby making the baby born with neurological damage, long term structural problems, ADHA or even still child birth.

The devastating effect of the Toxoplasma gondii is acclaimed and so there is a need to have protection against the infection especially for the women who are pregnant.

How common is Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy?

Infection caused by Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy is not very common. But the accredited researchers and studying scientists have found that almost 1 out of 200 women do get affected by the parasite.

It may not generally be the case but for the women who are pregnant for the first time are more likely to get the parasite compared to the women expecting for the second time.

Even if one is infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii during pregnancy, there isn’t a necessity that it would surely affect the child too! Sometimes the pregnant women do have Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy but are unaware of it and deliver healthy baby too.

What are the chances of women having Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a spread of the parasite called the Toxoplasma Gondii and is generally affecting to people of any age. However, the risk of being affected by it for women stands to be 85% for the ones who are of the childbearing age.

According to the Centers for disease control and Prevention i.e. CDC the number of women who are actually affected by it are much smaller in statistics and the risk of the baby being affected by it is the smallest. But the risk of the baby being affected by the toxoplasmosis rises as the pregnancy of the woman progresses.

If the woman gets affected by the parasite in the first trimester there are higher chances of the baby being affected by it as compared to the women getting affected by parasites in the second or third trimester.

The risk of your baby getting infected because of the contraction stands about 15% for the first trimester, 30% for the second trimester and the maximum i.e. 60% for the third trimester. Thus there are higher chances of the women getting infected by Toxoplasma parasite in the later pregnancy stage and the risk of the child being affected by it is also the highest in the third trimester.

What are the causes of Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy?

General infections can be caused by anything dirty and bacterial around you but for the Toxoplasma gondii parasite to affect you there are some specific things you should take care of. Experts have estimated that about half of the Toxoplasmosis cases have been because of the following:

  • Eating raw or under-cooked meat
  • Eating infected meat
  • Unwashed food or vegetables
  • Contaminated food or water
  • Handling contaminated soil
  • Cat litter
  • Cat transferring the contaminated soil to you

Mostly the cases involve either eating of the food specified or even the touching your mouth, nose or eye after having handled any contaminated or mixed produce. Thus there is a need to stay safe from the unwashed, contaminated or undercooked food and soil to be able to exercise the best control over the flow of parasite into the body.

What are the symptoms that you have Toxoplasmosis during your pregnancy?

Any infection is impossible to establish unless tested and known with the help of a certified doctor. The majority of people with good immune systems don’t even show any symptoms when they have Toxoplasmosis. And if there shall be any symptoms to anyone affected by Toxoplasmosis, it shall be the following:

  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Mild fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle ache
  • Sore throat
  • Rashes on the body

The more severe symptoms aren’t really likely to appear in a normal, well maintained and healthy body. However, there are times when doctors during the ultrasound or prenatal scan of the pregnant women find fetal abnormalities which are generally the cause of the Toxoplasmosis infection. The abnormalities don’t really count as the effect on babies but can trouble the pregnancy.

Is screening for Toxoplasmosis possible during pregnancy?

There isn’t really a right time to test or screen the infection caused by Toxoplasmosis. Neither is the testing or screening for Toxoplasmosis recommended for the pregnant women and so if you want yourself to be screened for it, the preference and safety entirely depends on the Gynecologist that you have been referring to or your midwife.

If you do find a symptom or two of the Toxoplasmosis, then make sure you give it proper attention and state the same to your midwife and people around you to stay aware of the situation and cure the problem.

If the Toxoplasmosis testing or screening is done it will be a blood test that is primarily done to check the level of two kinds of antibodies in your body. The results will decide the amount of infection and sometimes may even require you to get the test done again in two to three weeks.

The blood is taken and sent to Toxoplasmosis reference lab where the study for the parasite and the infection is carried out and the establishment of the time of being affected by the parasite is derived.

How can one avoid getting Toxoplasmosis?

Of course if it’s about health you must take the obvious care to protect yourself from the infection. And thus you can try to stay safe from the major sources of contamination with Toxoplasma gondii parasite to avoid getting Toxoplasmosis. Here are some of the things you should keep in mind.

  • Take care of your cat’s cleanliness and infection. You cat might be infected with Toxoplasmosis through the eating of undercooked or raw meat, drinking unpasteurized milk pr water as well as playing in the contaminated soil. Make sure that cat’s feces, its excretion in the soil around the house and even the soil that it plays in is kept away from you and the house for the best safety.
  • Some animals pass the parasite in their feces while some develop in the body in form of cysts. As a result, when you eat pork, lamb etc. there are chances that they might be infected. So the meat should be cleaned, handled and cooked properly. As cooking will kill the parasites and keep the meat healthy.
  • Don’t drink unpasteurized milk and its products
  • Raw eggs and meat consumption must be avoided
  • Always wash the vegetables and fruits before consuming them.
  • Make sure to wash your hands, eyes and mouth before and after food.
  • Always clean your hands after you have played outdoors, or with your pets. You should not touch your eyes or mouth before cleaning your hands.
  • Avoid contaminated water and make sure you drink mineral or filtered water all the time.
  • Check on the cuts in the body and make sure that they are always covered to save from potential infections.
  • Avoid public place dirt and sandboxes

How can Toxoplasmosis be treated?

Of course the parasite called Toxoplasma gondii has got harmful effects on pregnant women and it can prove dangerous to their health. From being a mild infection to even affecting the child severely the infection is known to cause miscarriage, still birth, or death of the child right after the birth.

And hence you should get yourself tested if the doctor favors doing the screening or the test.
Chances are that the infection will be known with the test of the amniotic fluid or an ultrasound which will make it clear that you have an infection and it is being transferred to the baby.

The doctor will then recommend the pregnant woman to special care and considering consulting a genetic counselor might be a good option to know the effects that may come on the baby.

If it hasn’t been long into the pregnancy i.e. the first trimester pregnant women are generally advised to end the pregnancy. This decision highly depends on the baby’s gestational age and will of the couple expecting the baby.

Other times the pregnancy is allowed to be continued and antibiotics are given orally to reduce the risk of the infection on the baby until the delivery.

As most of the babies which are born with the toxoplasmosis infection since the pregnancy to the mother suffer from brain problems and developmental issues, doctors prefer to save the consequences and ask the women to abort the child.

Will the effects of Toxoplasmosis show on my baby?

Babies who are born after being affected by Toxoplasmosis during their time in the mother’s womb may have issues like:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Epilepsy
  • Visual impairment
  • Blindness
  • Mental unawareness
  • At the time of the birth of the baby, the signs of Toxoplasmosis include:
  • Jaundice
  • Low blood platelet count
  • Rashes on the body
  • Lung or heart infection
  • Large lymph nodes
  • Large liver
  • Enlarged spleen

However, the point to note is that it is not necessary for the child to have the signs of Toxoplasmosis right after the birth. Sometimes the symptoms and signs are visible after months and even a year.

If a pregnant woman gives birth to a baby while having being infected with toxoplasmosis, the baby will be put to medicinal routine of antibiotics for a year to safeguard from the possible illnesses that may come during the course of their life.

Special tests like hearing tests, CAT scans, and all other body parts scanning will be done to ensure that the child is born healthy and without any ailment.

Taking care of the baby’s health and scanning will be beneficial to secure their life. Although nothing can be as beneficial as taking care of the health while a woman is pregnant and stay safe from all the ways in which the mother can get infected of any disease or infection.

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