Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy: symptoms, values, what not to eat

Fonte: shutterstock

Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy

This article explores:

  • what is the toxoplasmosis
  • what are the symptoms of toxoplasmosis (often you don't realize you have had it)
  • the risks to the fetus (in early pregnancy or in the last few months)
  • what is the toxo test
  • how to read the results of the toxo test
  • what to do if you discover that you have contracted toxoplasmosis in pregnancy
  • toxoplasmosis, how to avoid it and what not to eat
  • toxoplasmosis and cats
  • the testimonies on toxoplasmosis in pregnancy

1) What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a microorganism called Toxoplasma gondii. In the vast majority of cases you don't even realize you have had it, because it gives symptoms mild and general, such as tiredness, headache or throat, feeling of "broken bones". Once contracted, it leaves a permanent immunity, that is, there is no more risk of getting sick. The problem, however, is that if taken during pregnancy it can be very dangerous for the baby, as it can pass to the fetus via the placenta. The current state there is no vaccine against toxoplasmosis.

Symptoms of toxoplasmosis

There are mild and generic. Often you don't even realize you have had it.
You can try:

  •  fatigue
  •  sore throat
  •  feeling of "broken" bones.

Picture of toxoplasma condii in the blood

2) What are the risks for the baby?

If the mother contracts the infection during the months of pregnancy, the fetus does not necessarily get infected. But if this happens, the damage can be greater the earlier the infection occurs.

"Fortunately at the beginning of pregnancy it is difficult for toxoplasma to reach the fetus, but if this happens, the risks can also be serious: for example, spontaneous abortion, malformations, damage to the central nervous system that can lead to mental retardation or epilepsy or eye injuries that can cause blindness ”explains, head of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Operational Unit at the Luigi Sacco Hospital in our city and Professor at the University of our city. "Conversely, towards the end of pregnancy the passage through the placenta is easier, but at that point the possible risks are less".

3) The toxo-test to know if you are immune or not

To know if you are immune or sensitive to infection, a simple blood test is enough to detect the presence of antibodies against toxoplasma. The test can also be performed before conception, or as part of the first battery of tests that is recommended to the mother at the first visit of the pregnancy. If the woman is immune, she can rest easy for the full nine months and there is no need to repeat the test.

Otherwise it can be susceptible to infection if you have never contracted it (in this case the test will have to be repeated every month), or at risk of passing it on to the fetus, if you have contracted it during pregnancy. The examination is charged to the NHS for all the months of waiting.

He toxo-test

The toxo-test searches the blood for the presence of specific antibodies (called immunoglobulins) against the parasite. In particular, two types of immunoglobulins are sought:

  • and IgM, which are formed when there is an ongoing infection and therefore signal that the disease is in progress
  • and IgG, the 'memory' immunoglobulins that remain in circulation to signal that the body has encountered the parasite in the past. Several cases are possible.

How to read the results of the toxo-test

  • IgM and IgG both negative (i.e. lower than the reference values ​​indicated by the laboratory): it means that the woman has never contracted the infection. This means she should pay attention to certain preventive hygiene rules.
  • IgM negative e IgG positive: it means that the woman has already contracted toxoplasmosis in the past but does not have an infection in progress. She now she is immune and there is no risk to the fetus.
  • IgM positive e IgG negative: indicates that the woman had never contracted the infection in the past, but that at the time of the examination the infection is ongoing.
  • IgM and IgG both positive: it means that the infection was there and could still be in progress, as well as it could mean that it occurred up to 3-4 months earlier, since IgM takes 3-4 months before becoming negative. To know more precisely when the infection may have occurred, a particular test, called greed test.

4) What to do if you discover that you have contracted toxo during pregnancy

In the event that the infection is confirmed, the so-called can be performed greed test, that is, a blood test that allows you to know if the infection occurred in the previous three months or even earlier, and therefore to understand if it was contracted when the pregnancy was already in progress.

If toxoplasmosis was contracted during pregnancy

If that's the case, to know for sure if toxoplasma has actually crossed the placental barrier and infected the baby it is necessary to perform aamniocentesis, which allows to highlight the possible presence of the microorganism in the amniotic fluid.

5) Possible treatments

“If the mother contracts toxoplasmosis in pregnancy, she immediately undergoes one antibiotic therapy which reduces the risk of transmission of the infection to the fetus and which, if transmission has already occurred, reduces the risk of serious consequences ”explains the professor. With the current treatment options, at least 90% of babies who contract the infection in utero are born without obvious symptoms.

6) How to avoid toxo

The infection can be contracted only if you ingest the parasite, which can be present in the meat of infected animals, in cat feces, in the soil in which an infected cat has defecated and on fruit and vegetables (possibly contaminated by feces or soils in turn infected). Here then are the precautions to be taken to avoid contagion:

  • If you want to eat raw vegetables, it's important wash it thoroughly and carefullya, to remove soil residues. It is useful to add a little bicarbonate or special disinfectant solutions to the washing water, which help to remove dirt. Better to do a 'home' rinse even if you buy the salad already washed and packaged at the super.
  • No ban on cooked vegetables, since cooking is capable of destroying the germ.
  • With regard to the fruit, that which grows on trees does not cause problems, while for fruits in contact with the earth, such as strawberries, the same precautions as for raw vegetables apply.
  • Meat must always be consumed cooked. Yes to cutlets and roast beef, but only if the meat is well cooked inside too. Forbidden steaks rare or carpaccio. It is also forbidden to taste raw or semi-raw meat while preparing it for the meal.
  • As cured meats, cooked ones are allowed, such as mortadella and cooked ham. "No instead of raw ham, salami, bresaola, wurstel and speck, unless we consume them cooked in the dishes" highlights Iren. "It is true that industrial products are safer than artisanal ones, but if in doubt it is better not to risk".
  • After handling raw meat or vegetables, it always is a good rule of thumb to wash your hands well with soap and water.
  • No toxoplasmosis risk if consumed raw fish, like sushi. However, during pregnancy it is advisable to avoid it because it can contain other germs, such as salmonella.
  • Il gardening it is not forbidden, but it is necessary put on gloves and wash your hands thoroughly at the end of the work, to avoid contact with soil that may have been contaminated with faeces from infected animals.

7) Cats yes or no?

They are the first at which the finger is pointed, but in reality it is really difficult for a domestic cat (always lived in the house and not previously stray) to contract toxoplasmosis and transmit it to humans. Unless, of course, he goes into the garden and comes into contact with contaminated soil.

Toxoplasmosis and cat feces

The problem, however, is limited to faeces and therefore to the litter box: for an extra precaution, it is recommended have other family members clean it or wear gloves and wash your hands with soap and running water at the end of the cleaning operations. "However, it should be noted that the parasite's cysts hatch about 2-3 days after the deposition of feces, at an ambient temperature of 24 ° C and high humidity," he says. "So the risk of contamination is greatly reduced if the litter is cleaned every day."

The life cycle of Toxoplasma gondii.

Pregnancy: cat, dog and other pets

There is a baby on the way, how to prepare the pets for his arrival? It starts with a visit to the vet for everyone and then with a little education. Already during pregnancy you should teach your dog (or cat) to stay away from the crib, baby bag or changing table. In the same way, however, the dog (or cat) must be ensured a kennel in a place that the child will not be able to reach.

Sources for this article: web page of Epicentro (Higher Institute of Health); consultancy by, head of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Operational Unit at the Luigi Sacco Hospital in our city and professor at the University of our city.

Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy, the testimonies of mothers

Be positive on the toxo test. Anxiety, worry: will the baby in the womb be okay or not? We have collected the testimonies of mothers who discovered they contracted toxoplasmosis during pregnancy.

  • Read also the article on cytomegalovirus and peaceful pregnancy, the 10 golden rules

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