General Practice 2022

Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy: symptoms, risks and treatment

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Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy: symptoms, risks and treatment
Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy: symptoms, risks and treatment

Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy is normally asymptomatic for the woman, however it can pose a risk to the baby, especially when the infection occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy, when it is easier for the parasite to cross the placental barrier and reach the drinks. However, the most serious complications happen when the infection is in the first trimester of pregnancy, which is when the baby is developing, with chances of having fetal malformations or miscarriage, for example.

Toxoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), which can be transmitted to pregnant women through contact with contaminated soil, consumption of undercooked or poorly sanitized meat from animals contaminated by parasite or through unprotected contact with infected cat feces.

Symptoms of toxoplasmosis in pregnancy

Most of the time, toxoplasmosis does not lead to the appearance of signs and symptoms, however, as it is common for women to have a less active immune system during pregnancy, some symptoms can be noticed, such as:

  • Low fever;
  • Disease;
  • Inflamed tongues, especially in the neck;
  • Headache.

It is important that toxoplasmosis in pregnancy is diagnosed so that treatment can be started soon and complications for the baby are prevented. Thus, even if there are no symptoms, it is recommended that the pregnant woman undergo tests to identify the parasite in the first and third trimester of pregnancy, and it is possible for the doctor to verify if the woman is infected, has had contact with the parasite or has acquired immunity.

If the woman is found to have been infected recently, and possibly during pregnancy, the obstetrician may order a test called amniocentesis to check whether or not the baby has been affected. Ultrasound is also needed to assess whether the baby has been affected, especially late in pregnancy.

How contamination happens

Toxoplasma gondii contamination can happen through contact with feces of cats infected by the parasite or through consumption of contaminated water or raw or undercooked meat from animals infected with T. gondii. Also, contamination can happen accidentally after touching the infected cat's litter, for example.

Domestic cats raised only with food and who never leave the house, have much less risk of being contaminated, when compared to those who live on the street and feed on everything they find along the way. However, regardless of the cat's lifestyle, it is important that it is regularly taken to the vet to have it dewormed.

Risks of toxoplasmosis in pregnancy

Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy is serious especially when the woman is infected in the third trimester of pregnancy, as there is a greater chance of contamination of the baby, however when the infection occurs in the first trimester of pregnancy, although there is a lower chance of reaching the baby, when it happens it can pose greater risks to the baby. Therefore, it is important that the woman undergo tests to identify the infection by the parasite and, if necessary, start the treatment indicated by the doctor.

The risks of toxoplasmosis vary according to the trimester of pregnancy in which the infection occurs, being in general:

  • Spontaneous abortion;
  • Premature birth;
  • Fetal malformations;
  • Low birth weight;
  • Death at birth.

After birth, the risks for the baby born with congenital toxoplasmosis are:

  • Changes in baby head size;
  • Strabismus, which is when one eye is not facing in the right direction;
  • Inflammation of the eyes, which can progress to blindness;
  • Intense jaundice, which is yellow skin and eyes;
  • Liver Enlargement;
  • Pneumonia;
  • Anemia;
  • Inflammation of the heart;
  • Seizures;
  • Deafness;
  • Mental retardation.

Toxoplasmosis may also not be detected at birth, and may manifest months or even years after birth.

It is important for the woman to be careful during pregnancy to avoid contamination and reduce the risks to the baby, it is important to avoid the consumption of raw or undercooked meat and to wash your hands well, avoiding not only toxoplasmosis but also also other infections that can happen.Check out other tips to avoid getting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy.

How to be treated

Treatment for toxoplasmosis in pregnancy is done through the use of antibiotics to treat the mother and reduce the risk of transmission to the baby.

Antibiotics and duration of treatment will depend on the stage of pregnancy and the strength of your immune system. Antibiotics that may be used include Pyrimethamine, Sulfadiazine, Clindamycin and Spiramycin. If the baby is already infected, its treatment is also done with antibiotics and should be started soon after birth.

Better understand how treatment for toxoplasmosis in pregnancy is done.

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