Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is it safe to change cat litter during pregnancy?

Cat feces can carry a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, an infection that isn't serious for you but can pose a danger to your developing baby.

Some birds and other animals, as well as some raw, cured or undercooked meats, can also carry the parasite. Toxoplasmosis causes most severe damage to the fetus if a woman comes down with it in her first trimester.

Happily, the odds of contracting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy are low, and if you've had it once, you can't catch it again. What's more, it's rare for a woman to be infected for the first time during pregnancy and some experts argue that you're much more likely to catch it from eating raw, undercooked or cured meat than from your cat. Plus, if you live with cats, the likelihood is even higher that you've already contracted the disease and developed an immunity to it.

Experts recommend that pregnant women should avoid emptying the cat litter tray. Ideally it should be cleared every day by someone else. If you have to do it yourself, always wear rubber gloves and wash both your hands and the gloves thoroughly afterwards.

Wear gloves when you're gardening and handling soil or sand, too, to cut down the risk of infection from cat and animal feces. Always wash your hands before preparing or handling food and be very strict about food hygiene.

There is a blood test which can show whether you have had toxoplasmosis. If you are worried, speak to your doctor about it.

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