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Toxoplasmosis in Pregnancy

Don't get rid of the kitty!


Updated June 25, 2014

Pregnant woman in bed with her cat
Buena Vista Images/Photodisc/Getty Images
Ever heard someone say that pregnant women shouldn't change the kitty litter? Did you think is was an old wives tale? It's not.

Toxoplasmosis is the reason women should avoid cat litter boxes (and rare or uncooked meat) during pregnancy.

It is caused by a parasite.

Everyone can be affected by this however, it is usually not a problem for an adult to have toxoplasmosis. Usually an adult will think they have a mild flu. However in the immunosuppressed patient, or a newborn, you can have serious illness, prematurity, miscarriage or death occur.

We used to tell pregnant women to get rid of their cat. However, this is not necessary. Many people who have owned cats, have already been exposed to toxoplasmosis. There are screenings available to see if you have been exposed and therefore have life long immunity.

Here's what you can do to prevent toxoplasmosis in pregnancy:

  • Avoid the cat litter
  • Have someone else change the litter or use an automatic litter box
  • Always eat your meats fully cooked
  • Wear gloves when handling soil
  • Wash all produce very well to avoid exposure

So, don't panic, and don't get rid of your pet. Remember you can always talk to your vet for more information as well as your health care practitioner. Very few babies, 15 out of 800,000 in the UK every year, ever have this disease, but it's nice to know that we can help prevent it.

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