Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy: risks and foods to avoid

Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy: risks and foods to avoid

Toxoplasmosis is a common infectious disease caused by a microscopic parasite. Most often benign, it can seriously affect the fetus if contracted during pregnancy. Litterboxdisease" is transmitted by direct contact with the excrement of an infected cat, or by ingestion of contaminated food. But what are the risks of toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, and what foods should you avoid eating? Here's everything you need to know.

Definition: what is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by an intracellular parasite called Toxoplasma gondii (toxoplasma). This parasite proliferates in the intestines of cats, but can also be found in the form of cysts in the flesh of many meat animals (pork, lamb, etc.).

This zoonotic disease, which passes from animals to humans, is asymptomatic in most cases and is not contagious. It can, however, be dangerous for non-immune or immunosuppressed pregnant women. Toxoplasma gondii can cross the placental barrier and contaminate the fetus.

Toxoplasmosis is contracted :

  • by direct contact with cat feces;
  • after eating badly washed fruit or vegetables;
  • after eating undercooked or raw meat;
  • contact with cooking utensils that have come into contact with raw meat.

How many pregnant women are affected by toxoplasmosis?

60% of pregnant women are not immune to toxoplasmosis. However, cases of contamination from mother to fetus are still quite rare. In France, there are around three cases in every ten thousand pregnancies.

Passage of Toxoplasma gondii to lhe risk of Toxoplasma gondii transmission to the baby is low at the beginning of gestation (between 5 and 10% when the mother has been infected). Its consequences, however, can be very serious for the baby at this stage of pregnancy. pregnancy. When a pregnant woman contracts the disease during the last trimester, the risk of transmission is of the lorder of 30%, but the after-effects are much less severe.

What are the symptoms of toxoplasmosis in pregnancy?

Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy is a generally asymptomatic infection. It may go unnoticed or give rise to a few symptoms. However, the "litter disease" presents real risks for the fetus.

Symptoms of toxoplasmosis in pregnant women

8 out of 10 mothers-to-be are asymptomatic after contracting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. For the rest, symptoms are relatively similar to those of the flu:

  • Moderate fever (+/- 38°C);
  • Prolonged fatigue ;
  • Presence of lymph nodes ;
  • Headaches ;
  • Joint and muscle pain.

Risks for the fetus

However, if the parasite crosses the placenta and reaches the fetus, complications can arise. LIn this case, the child develops congenital toxoplasmosis, which carries many risks.

When linfection occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy, it can lead to serious complications : neurological sequelae, premature delivery and death in utero.

The main complication detected in babies is chorioretinitis. This condition is characterized by inflammation of the choroid (one of the three membranes of the eye) and damage to the retina. It can appear after birth, in adolescence and even in adulthood.

Which pregnancies are at risk of toxoplasmosis?

If you're planning to have a baby, you need to have a toxoplasmosis serology test to find out if you've already contracted the disease. Is the result positive? If so, you're safe, unless you're immunocompromised. Negative result? Then you're not immune, and you'll need to remain vigilant.

First encounter with the parasite: non-immune women

A pregnant woman who has not been immunized against toxoplasmosis will be prescribed a monthly blood test by her gynecologist or midwife. This will enable her to find out whether she has encountered the parasite during pregnancy, and to set up an appropriate medical treatment to prevent her child from becoming infected.

Weakened immune resistance: immunocompromised women

Immunocompromised pregnant women (suffering from cancer, AIDS or taking anti-rejection drugs after a transplant) will benefit from similar monitoring. They are at serious risk, even if they have already been infected with Toxoplasma. Unfortunately, a weak immune system can reactivate lthe infection.

For these people, the symptoms are very severe: high fever (over 38°C), brain damage (abscesses), epileptic seizures, intense and persistent headaches, chorioretinitis and sometimes paralysis of certain parts of the body. This means they need to be extra careful, as the risks are as real for them as they are for their baby.

What foods should I avoid for toxoplasmosis?

As we have seen l, toxoplasma can be found in the form of cysts in the flesh of various meat animals (pigs, sheep, poultry), but also in game meat. This highly resistant parasite is destroyed if the cooking temperature exceeds 67°C. To avoid contracting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, avoid eating blue or rare meat.

Here is a list of prohibited foods for pregnant women who have not been immunized against toxoplasmosis or who are immunosuppressed:

  • raw meat (tartare, carpaccio, etc.) ;
  • raw, smoked or cured charcuterie (dry-cured ham, coppa, sausage, viande des grisons, etc.);
  • products made from raw goat's milk.

You should also observe impeccable food hygiene, taking care to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly. And don' t use a knife or board that has been in direct contact with raw meat.

Finally, avoid touching cat droppings (you can ask your partner to change the litter box) and remember to wear gloves when gardening.

How is toxoplasmosis treated during pregnancy?

Women suffering from toxoplasmosis during pregnancy must consult a doctor in order to receive appropriate treatment. The drugs prescribed will depend on the trimester in which the mother-to-be contracted the disease, as well as on any infection of the fetus. In general, pyrimethamine (an anti-parasitic agent) or spiramycin (an antibiotic to prevent transmission between mother and child) are prescribed.

To determine whether the baby has congenital toxoplasmosis, an amniocentesis may be performed. If this is unfortunately the case, the pregnant woman will be closely monitored until delivery. Ultrasound scans are required to ensure that there are no malformations. After birth, thechild is monitored for up to a year.


Pregnancy toxoplasmosis FAQ

How common and serious is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a common parasitic disease. It generally poses no health risk. If contracted during pregnancy, however, it can cause serious illness in the fetus and in immunocompromised pregnant women.

Can toxoplasmosis be treated during pregnancy?

Yes, antiparasitic drugs and antibiotics can be prescribed to treat toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. Not only will they limit the risk of transmission to the baby, but they can also help the baby fight the disease.

Which is the most dangerous month of pregnancy for toxoplasmosis?

Ltoxoplasma infection is very dangerous for the fetus when it occurs during the first three months of pregnancy. Congenital toxoplasmosis can cause severe neurological damage, malformations and even miscarriage.

More articles

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note that comments must be approved before being published.

Our best sellers

1 from 8

The information contained in the articles on is general information only. Although reviewed by health professionals, this information is not error-free, does not constitute health advice or consultation, and is not intended to provide a diagnosis or suggest a course of treatment. Under no circumstances may this information be used as a substitute for medical advice or consultation with a healthcare professional. If you have any questions, please consult your doctor.