Posts Tagged ‘litter box’

“Spread Prevention, Not the Infection” during Pregnancy: Toxoplasmosis

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

This year the theme of  National Birth Defects Prevention Month is Prevent to Protect. This week we will be posting a series of guest posts from MotherToBaby’s Kirstie Perrotta, MPH, Lorrie Harris-Sagaribay, MPH, Robert Felix and Susan Sherman of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) Zika Task Force. Each day they will respond to one of the top five questions they receive about preventable infectious diseases and what you can do to prevent exposure during pregnancy.

“It’s 2018! I didn’t even know you could get syphilis nowadays!” Yes, I mentioned the stats about syphilis and other infections that can affect pregnancy to the caller who had contacted me through our free MotherToBaby helpline. I thought, this is a great time to educate her as well as others about a variety of infections. Some infections, like Zika, seem to make headlines every week, while others tend to be discussed much less frequently. January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and this year’s focus is on infection prevention.

I didn’t find out I was pregnant until 12 weeks, and I’ve been changing my cat’s litter box this whole time. Am I at risk for toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis infection is caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. You can get it from handling cat feces or soil, or eating undercooked, infected meat that contains the parasite. Eating raw eggs or drinking unpasteurized milk are also possible sources.

Most adults with toxoplasmosis don’t have symptoms, but some have symptoms similar to the flu or mononucleosis, with swelling of the lymph nodes, fever, headache or muscle pain. In most cases, once a person gets toxoplasmosis, they cannot get it again. If a woman has an active toxoplasmosis infection during pregnancy, it can pass to the developing baby (called congenital toxoplasmosis infection). Not every infected baby will have problems, but the infection could cause a variety of developmental problems for the infant.

Up to 85% of pregnant women in the U.S. are at risk for toxoplasmosis infection. Generally, women who have recently acquired a cat or care for an outdoor cat may be at an increased risk for toxoplasmosis. Ask yourself: Have you ever been diagnosed with toxoplasmosis? How long have you had your cat? Is your cat indoor only, outdoor only, or both? Do you feed the cat raw meat? Talk to your healthcare provider if you have concerns and want to learn more about a blood test that can determine if you have ever had toxoplasmosis.

To avoid future infection, here are some precautions you can take: (1) wash your hands carefully after handling raw meat fruit, vegetables, and soil; (2) do not touch cat feces, or else wear gloves and immediately wash your hands afterwards if you must change the cat litter; (3) wash all fruits and vegetables; peeling fruits and vegetables can also help reduce risk of exposure; (4) cook meat until it is no longer pink and the juices run clear; and (5) do not feed your cat raw meat.

Other posts in the series:

“Spread Prevention, Not the Infection” during Pregnancy: Zika

“Spread Prevention, Not the Infection” during Pregnancy: Listeria

“Spread Prevention, Not the Infection” during Pregnancy: Syphilis

About MotherToBaby 

MotherToBabyis a service of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), suggested resources by many agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you have questions about exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding, please call MotherToBaby toll-FREE at 866-626-6847 or try out MotherToBaby’s new text information service by texting questions to (855) 999-3525. You can also visit to browse a library of fact sheets about dozens of viruses, medications, vaccines, alcohol, diseases, or other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding or connect with all of our resources by downloading the new MotherToBaby free app, available on Android and iOS markets.

Prevent infections to protect your baby

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

January is Birth Defects Prevention month. Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year. This means that a baby is born with a birth defect about every 4 ½ minutes. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth and can cause problems in overall health, in how the body develops or works. Some infections before and during pregnancy can have serious consequences, including causing certain birth defects. Not all birth defects can be prevented. But there are some things that you can do before and during pregnancy to protect yourself and your baby.

Practice good hygiene

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often.
  • Take precautions when preparing food.
  • Make sure to wash hands after changing diapers or wiping runny noses. Don’t share cups or utensils with young children.
  • Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards, and turtles.
  • Do not clean a cat litter box during pregnancy.

Talk to your health care provider     

  • Talk to your provider about what you can do to prevent infections, such as Zika.
  • Discuss how to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Make sure you are getting the right amount of folic acid. Most women should be taking 400mcg of folic acid before pregnancy.

Get vaccinated

  • Your provider can make sure that you are up to date on all your routine adult vaccinations before you get pregnant.
  • The CDC recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy: the flu shot and the pertussis vaccine (Tdap) at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Pertussis (also called whooping cough) is an extremely contagious disease that causes violent coughing and is dangerous for a baby. Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap during every pregnancy, to protect their baby.

Prevent insect bites

  • Take precautions to protect yourself from animals known to carry diseases and insects that may carry infections, such as Zika.
  • Avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. Be sure to discuss any travel plans with your provider.
  • When mosquitoes are active, prevent mosquito bites using an EPA-registered bug spray containing one of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or IR3535.
  • Wear appropriate clothing when outside, such as a hat, long-sleeved shirt, pants, shoes, & socks.
  • Don’t have sex with a male or female partner who may be infected with Zika virus or who has recently traveled to a Zika-affected area.

And don’t forget that there are many other steps that you can take to get ready for a healthy pregnancy:

Can you prevent infections during pregnancy?

Monday, October 16th, 2017

There are some infections that you can get either before or during pregnancy that may cause complications for you and your baby. You can’t always prevent infections, but here are some tips that can help:

Wash your hands: Washing your hands regularly can help to reduce the spread of colds, the flu and other infections, like cytomegalovirus (CMV).

Wash your hands:

  • Before preparing or eating food
  • After handling raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables
  • After being around pets or animals
  • After changing diapers, wiping runny noses, or picking up toys

Prepare food properly: Handle foods safely whenever you wash, prepare, cook and store them. Wash knives, cutting boards and dishes used to prepare raw meat, fish or poultry before using them for other foods. Foods to avoid during pregnancy include raw meat, fish, and eggs and unpasteurized foods.

Get vaccinated: Vaccinations can help protect you and your baby from certain infections during pregnancy. Some vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy, but others are not. Talk to your provider to make sure any vaccination you get during pregnancy is safe. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date before you get pregnant.

Protect yourself from Zika: If you get infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy, you can pass it to your baby. It causes a birth defect called microcephaly and other brain problems. Zika virus spreads through mosquito bites and through body fluids, like blood and semen.

  • If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, don’t visit a Zika-affected area unless absolutely necessary.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  • If your male or female partner may be infected with Zika, use a barrier method (like a condom) every time you have sex or don’t have sex at all.
  • If you’re pregnant and think you may have been exposed to Zika virus, see your health care provider right away.

Ask someone else to clean your cat’s litter box: If you have to do it yourself, wear gloves. Wash your hands thoroughly when you’re done emptying the litter. Dirty cat litter may contain toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite. Toxoplasmosis can cause health problems for your baby during pregnancy.

Get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs): STIs are infections you can get from having unprotected sex with someone who’s infected. If you’re pregnant and have an STI, it can cause serious problems for your baby, including premature birth and birth defects. Testing for STIs is a part of prenatal care. If you have an STI, getting treatment early can help protect your baby.

Talk to your health care provider: Talk to your provider about how to prevent infections, making sure that you’re up-to-date on your vaccinations before pregnancy, and what vaccinations you need during pregnancy.

Have questions? Text or email us at

Let someone else clean Mr. Whisker’s litter box when you’re pregnant

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

ToxoplasmosisWe often receive emails from pregnant women concerned about their cat and his litter box. Dirty cat litter might contain a harmful parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis.

If you have toxoplasmosis within 6 months of getting pregnant, you may be able to pass it to your baby during pregnancy. Toxoplasmosis can cause pregnancy complications such as preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks) and stillbirth. The earlier in pregnancy you get infected, the more serious the baby’s problems may be after birth. For example, a baby could have a birth defect called microcephaly or vision problems.

Do you need to find Mr. Whiskers a new home?

The good news is that your cat can stay. But, you should have your partner, a friend, or family member change your cat’s litter for you. If you must change it yourself, be sure you wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

Is it just Mr. Whiskers? Or are there other ways to get toxoplasmosis?

You can also come in contact with the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis through:

  • Eating raw or undercooked meat – be sure to cook meat thoroughly and wash your hands after handling raw meat.
  • Eating unwashed fruits and vegetables – peel or thoroughly wash all raw fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Touching kitchen utensils and cutting boards used to prepare raw or undercooked meat and fruits and vegetables – clean cutting boards, work surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water after using them.
  • Touching dirt or sand – use work gloves when gardening and be sure to wash your hands afterward. Stay away from children’s sandboxes as well.

Pregnancy is a time of many changes, and it’s also a time to ask for help when you need it. Mr. Whiskers won’t mind that someone else is changing his litter box so that you can protect yourself during pregnancy.

For more information on toxoplasmosis, see our web article. Have questions? Text or email us at