Pregnancy and Pets
Many families keep animals close by for company, protection, and entertainment. When the couple thinking about adding a child to their family, they begin to wonder about the effects of pets on pregnancy.
For the most part, it doesn’t affect pregnancy and it is safe to keep them around during pregnancy, the only concern is cats and toxoplasmosis.
What is Toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that cats can carry and excrete in their feces. Humans can get infected by ingesting the parasite. The infection in healthy adults is usually asymptomatic. If a pregnant woman gets infected with this parasite during pregnancy this might cause miscarriage, damage to the baby\’s brain and eyes and even stillbirth.
The chances of being infected during pregnancy are very low, particularly with indoor cats. If you had your cat for a while you are likely already immune because you\’ve probably been infected with it as most cat owners have been. A simple blood test is available that will confirm your immunity.
What to do if you are not immune?
If you are not immune you need to avoid the cat’s litter box and a non- pregnant person needs to clean the litter box daily, try to keep your cat inside, and keep away from stray cats.
You can also contract toxoplasmosis through gardening (the parasite can be found in the soil) or by coming into contact with raw or undercooked meats. Wash your hands often, especially after gardening or touching the cat\’s stool.
What are the risks of having rodents as pets while pregnant?
Many people keep rodents as pets like Hamsters, guinea pigs, and mice. These animals may rarely carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (also called LCMV) that can be harmful to pregnant women and their babies. LCMV can cause severe birth defects and miscarriage.
Humans can get LCMV from a rodent bite or through contact with their bodily secretions. Pregnant women should keep rodents in a separate part and wash hands with soap after touching rodents.
We ask pregnant women and women who are planning to get pregnant to ask their physician about any other type of animals or pets that might affect pregnancy.
By: Dr. Rami Kilani, Obstetrics and Gynecology