Definition - What does Toxoplasmosis mean?

Toxoplasmosis is a blood infection that occurs from exposure to contaminated foods or cat feces. Pregnant women who contract toxoplasmosis can pass the disease onto the fetus, causing birth defects, pregnancy complications, or miscarriage.

FertilitySmarts explains Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is typically contracted through contaminated foods, including:

  • Undercooked meat
  • Unwashed fruits and vegetables
  • Contact with a parasite called toxoplasma gondii . Troxoplasma gondii can be found in the feces of cats.

Most people who contract toxoplasmosis show no symptoms. However, some mild symptoms may occur, including:

  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue

Many people with cats contract toxoplasmosis without knowing it, particularly when no symptoms are present. Once someone has had the disease an immunity is developed towards future infections. However, when the disease is contracted by pregnant women, or to a women in the 6-months prior to conception, there can be significant consequences.

Complications of toxoplasmosis during pregnancy include:

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Cognitive disabilities
  • Jaundice
  • Abnormal head size
  • Retina deformations

Many women are tested for toxoplasmosis immunity prior to pregnancy or during a first prenatal exam. Women with established immunity are not able to contract the disease again. However women without immunity would need to enforce restrictions to avoid the illness. Pregnant women exposed to the infection can test for fetal transfer through a cordocentesis, a test that determines if infection reached the fetus.

Pregnant women, or women who expect to become pregnant, should avoid the following:

  • Getting a new cat
  • Changing kitty litter
  • Allowing cats to walk on tables or counters
  • Raw or undercooked meat
  • Restaurant meals or pre-made meals with raw vegetables
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