Kitty Litter and Pregnancy
By Melissa RamsdellWhen morning sickness, swollen feet and back aches get you down, remember the joys of pregnancy: guilt-free ice cream binges, all new clothes and baby showers.
And, your partner has to scoop the kitty litter for the next nine months.
That's because, cute as they may be, some cats carry a parasite that can give you and your baby a dangerous infection called toxoplasmosis. Often, women pick up the parasite when they change the litter box.
The odds of having a problem with toxoplasmosis are low -- one in 1,000 pregnancies are affected -- but the consequences are serious. In some cases, babies have been born with birth defects, such as severe learning disabilities, water on the brain, or deafness.
So doctors like Dr. David Hager, an obstetrician from Lexington, Kentucky, tell their patients to play it safe if they have cats at home.
"I give everyone the same advice: stay away from cat litter and avoid raw meat and you shouldn't be at risk," he says.
Ask your doctor about a blood test that will show if you have already been exposed to toxoplasmosis. If so, experts say you probably won't be infected again while pregnant because your body has built up a resistance to it. If not, be extra cautious about avoiding exposure.
Also, test the cat.
"If the cat tests positive, that means he's been exposed in the past and is unlikely to shed these little things in his stool," says Dr. James Richards, a Cornell University veterinarian. "In a sense, a positively-testing cat is probably the best guy to have around."
Other ways to reduce risk: