Toxoplasmose Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is a common infection that usually doesn’t cause any problems, but it can lead to complications during pregnancy.

This article has been verified by a medical professional

Impact of toxoplasmosis on pregnancy

The likelihood of getting infected with toxoplasmosis while pregnant is very small. Even if you are infected during pregnancy, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will spread to your baby and cause problems – and in most cases, it doesn’t.

However, there is a chance that becoming infected with toxoplasmosis a few months before conceiving or during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, newborn death, and birth defects. Babies with toxoplasmosis may develop health problems later on in life, including vision and hearing problems, seizures, learning difficulties, and delayed growth.

How toxoplasmosis spreads

The majority of toxoplasmosis cases comes from eating contaminated food. It’s possible to catch toxoplasmosis by:

  • Eating raw or undercooked meat (with traces of pink or blood)
  • Eating cured meats (salami or Parma ham)
  • Drinking or eating products with unpasteurized goats’ milk
  • Touching pregnant sheep or lambs
  • Eating food containing cat poo or contaminated soil
  • Touching contaminated cat poo and then handling your food

Pregnant women who work in farming or catering may be at higher risk of becoming infected. Having a weakened immune system, like following an organ transplant, cancer treatment, or if you have HIV, can also increase the risk of infection.

Toxoplasmosis doesn’t spread through person-to-person contact, but it can spread from mother to baby via the placenta.

Symptoms of toxoplasmosis

Most of the time, toxoplasmosis doesn’t cause symptoms, so most people don’t realize they have it or have had it in the past. However, some physical signs can include:

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • A general feeling of sickness
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands

Diagnosis of toxoplasmosis

Healthcare providers diagnose toxoplasmosis using a blood test that detects antibodies to the infection. It can take as long as 3 weeks following infection with toxoplasmosis for antibodies to appear in the blood. The type and levels of antibodies can determine when the infection happened.

If the tests confirm a toxoplasmosis infection during or just before pregnancy, you may have additional tests done to figure out the risk of passing it on to your baby. Tests called amniocentesis and cordocentesis can also show if the baby is infected, but these carry a small risk of miscarriage.

Treatment to improve pregnancy outcomes

If you are currently infected with toxoplasmosis or caught it recently, experts recommend waiting 6 months before getting pregnant to protect your baby’s health.

There are some things you can do to reduce your chance of becoming infected with toxoplasmosis, such as: 

  • Always wash your hands before cooking and eating
  • Wash cooking tools thoroughly after handling raw meat
  • Don’t eat raw or undercooked oysters, mussels, or clams
  • Peel or wash fruit and vegetables before eating
  • Cook meat all the way through (you can check if it’s done with a meat thermometer)
  • Wear gloves while gardening

If you have a cat, don’t worry, you can’t catch toxoplasmosis by petting your pet. If possible, it’s best to ask someone else in your household to change the litter box daily. In case you need to handle the litter box yourself, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands afterward.  

If a blood test shows that you have a current or recent infection and you are pregnant, treatment with antibiotics can reduce the chance of infecting your baby. It’s safe to breastfeed your baby if you caught toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. 

After giving birth, your baby will have tests to see if they were infected and check for any related complications. Treatment with antibiotics can help reduce the chance of your baby developing health problems due to toxoplasmosis.

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