Avoiding Sources of Toxoplasmosis During Pregnancy
Toxoplasmosis is an infection by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Once you have had it, you cannot get it again. This is because your body has learned how to fight it off (immunity).
People usually become infected by eating food that contains the parasite (such as undercooked meat from an infected animal) or by handling an infected cat's feces or touching surfaces contaminated by them.
Many women have had toxoplasmosis (usually without any symptoms) before they become pregnant. If a woman becomes infected during pregnancy, her fetus may also get it. This can lead to eye and brain damage.
Avoiding contact with Toxoplasma gondii is key to preventing fetal infection during pregnancy. If you are not immune to Toxoplasma gondii or don't know whether you are immune, you can drastically reduce your risk of infection if you:
- Avoid cat feces, in both the home and the garden.
- If you have a cat, have someone else clean the cat litter box while you are pregnant and preferably 2 months prior to conceiving. If you must do so yourself, wear gloves and a face mask, and wash your hands afterward.
- When gardening or handling soil, wear gloves, and wash your hands afterward.
- Wash all foods that could have had contact with cat feces, including commercial fruits and vegetables.
- Make a habit of washing any table or counter surfaces that a cat may have walked across.
- Eat only well-cooked or previously frozen meat. Avoid dried meats and meat from wild game. Sustained high or low temperatures are necessary to kill Toxoplasma gondii in meat.
- Carefully wash your hands and all utensils after preparing raw meat, poultry, seafood, fruits, or vegetables.
If you have lab results that confirm your immunity to Toxoplasma gondii, you do not have to take special preventive measures during pregnancy. For more information, see Toxoplasmosis Test.