In only about 30-40% of women who catch toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, does the infection pass to the unborn baby.

The actual risk appears to be related to the gestation at which it is acquired. It is greatest in the third trimester at 70%, whereas in early pregnancy only 15% of infants will become infected.

Toxoplasmosis infection may lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or survival with growth problems, blindness, water on the brain (hydrocephalus), brain damage, epilepsy, or deafness. If a woman is found to have acquired toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, she will be offered an ultrasound scan to look for signs of fetal infection.

After 20 weeks gestation, she may be offered a definitive test - cordocentesis. This involves a scan and blood sample being taken from the umbilical cord.

Although toxoplasmosis is quite serious when it occurs, as you will see from the figures above, it is relatively rare.

Tips for preventing toxoplasmosis

Be sure to only eat meat that has been cooked right through.

Wash your hands, cooking utensils and food surfaces after preparing raw meat

Wash all the soil from fruit and vegetables before eating.

Keep raw meat and cooked foods on separate plates.

Always use gloves when gardening and wash your hands afterwards.

Cats and toxoplasmosis

Women with cats do not need to get rid of them when they become pregnant; it is just necessary to take a few precautions.

If possible, get someone else to clean out the dirty cat litter or use gloves and wash your hands afterwards. Make sure you take it to the vet and check out all its cat health problems.

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