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Toxoplasmosis During Pregnancy - Topic Overview

What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a common infection found in birds, animals, and people.

For most people, it doesn't cause serious health problems. But for a pregnant woman’s growing baby, it can cause brain damage and vision loss. Still, the chance of a pregnant woman getting the infection and passing it on to her baby is low.

If you're pregnant or planning to have a baby and are worried that you may have toxoplasmosis, ask your doctor about getting tested. After you have had the infection, you're usually immune and can't get it again or pass it on to your baby.

But if you aren't immune, you'll want to take special care while you're pregnant. Avoid anything that may be infected, such as infected meat and infected cat feces.

What causes toxoplasmosis?

A parasite causes toxoplasmosis.

You can get the infection by:

  • Eating infected meat that hasn't been fully cooked or frozen.
  • Digging or gardening in sand or soil where an infected cat has left feces.
  • Changing an infected cat’s litter box. Cats infected with the parasite pass it on to others through their feces.
  • Eating anything that has touched infected cat feces, including fruits and vegetables that haven't been washed. You can also get the infection by eating food that has touched tables and counters your cat has walked on.

What are the symptoms?

If you get toxoplasmosis, you may feel like you have the flu, or you may not feel sick at all. Most people who get the infection don't even know that they have it. Symptoms may include:

How is toxoplasmosis diagnosed?

A blood test can tell whether you have or have ever had toxoplasmosis. If you're worried about getting the infection, ask your doctor about having the test.

If you get the infection while you're pregnant, you'll need to have your baby tested. Your doctor can take some fluid from the sac that surrounds your baby and check for the infection.

How is it treated?

In healthy people, the infection often goes away on its own. But babies and people whose bodies can't fight infection well will need to take medicine to treat the infection and prevent serious health problems.

If you get toxoplasmosis while you're pregnant, you'll take medicine that treats the infection. This medicine is called an antibiotic.

This medicine may:

  • Keep your baby from getting the infection.
  • Lower your baby’s chance of having serious health problems if he or she does get it.

Your baby has a better chance of being healthy at birth if you get treatment while you're pregnant.

Most newborns who have been infected with toxoplasmosis have no symptoms at birth. If your baby has the infection, he or she will need to take antibiotics for a year after birth. This lowers the chance of having problems later on.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 02, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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