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to worry I have exposed myself to toxoplasmosis?

37 replies

takethatlady · 17/04/2011 16:40

Please tell me I am being an idiot. Or tell me what else to do.

I am 30 weeks pregnant and have spent the last two days gardening, most of the time without gloves. I knew about toxoplasmosis but I associated it with cat litter (we don't have cats) and raw/uncooked meats.

Then I came in from the garden, quickly washed my hands, made a sandwich, ate the sandwich, and saw that I had mud still all up the side of my right hand. Obviously I came straight back inside and washed my hands very thoroughly, scrubbing under the nails, etc. And then I googled 'gardening without gloves' and 'pregnancy' and came across all this stuff about toxoplasmosis.

I am now feeling like a complete idiot for having exposed the baby to toxoplasmosis, and scared shitless about the side effects.

As I say, we don't have cats, though there is a cat that wanders in our garden. I have never ever seen any cat faeces in the garden, and neither has DH, so I don't think the cat (or any other cats) use it to go to the toilet.

Please tell me that my chances of infection are still really low. Everything I can find on the internet, even sensible sources, just advises strongly against gardening without gloves.

Is there anything I can do to sort this out now? If I go to my doctor, can I ask for antibiotics to prevent any possible infection developing (or will he/she just tell me there's no point giving me antibiotics for a parasite there's no evidence I am actually carrying?) Should I go to my doctor and ask for blood tests to see if I picked anything up? Or should I just chill out?

I have been generally very relaxed since my 12 week scan but now I am terrified that I have potentially caused harm to my baby, and for no good reason. All advice greatly appreciated.

OP posts:

jojowest · 17/04/2011 16:42

what are the signs/symptoms if you have contracted it


Northernlurker · 17/04/2011 16:42

I think you need to ring your midwife service for a chat. I don't know what can be done if anything and of course you may very well not be at risk at all. What you need more than anything is to talk this through with a healthcare professional and try not to worry.


SardineQueen · 17/04/2011 16:46

Please don't worry. Have you ever had a cat? Had a friend who had a cat? Been near a cat in your life? You have probably had it - most people have and have nothing to worry about. It is extraordinarily rare for people to catch this in pregnancy here and have problems because of it.

I think NLs idea that you chat to your midwife for some reassurance is a good one Smile

Here is the NHS stuff anyway it is very rare.


KingCnut · 17/04/2011 16:49

Second calling your midwife, for reassurance if nothing else. AFAIK, quite a lot of us are immune to it anyway from inadvertantly picking it up as kids.


YouCantTeuchThis · 17/04/2011 16:50

do you usually do the gardening? If so then, if it is present in your garden soil, then it is likely that you have been exposed to it in the past. If you have, then you and your baby are not at risk. This will also be the case if you, say, lived on a farm, ever lived with cats and other common ways of being exposed.

What you can ask for is a blood test to see whether you have had toxoplasmosis in the past - this should also tell you if you are currently infected.


chicaguapa · 17/04/2011 16:52

AFAIK most people have already had it. You can get it from eating rare meat too.


SpringFollows · 17/04/2011 16:52

Okay if you have ever had a cat in your life, or even snuggled a cat with your face the likelihood that you have had it is HIGH. Most people have. The symptoms are, i think, vaguely flu-like.

You can get a blood test to see if you have been exposed in the past- but not on the NHS I think. You may have to pay. It is not screened ordinarily here, unlike in some countries including France.

Talk to your midwife. I have had cats and when I was pg was seriously panicked about it also. But, it is SO SO unlikely.


frakyouveryverymuch · 17/04/2011 16:52

Go get tested and ask for monthly tests for the rest of your pregnancy. Were you tested at the beginning? You may already be immune.

If you develop any flu like symptoms go straight to the hospital and tell them.

If you have caught it then it won't necessarily pass to baby but you can be offered amnio screening to see if it has and extra scans, then baby should be tested at birth and given antibiotics during the first year.


frakyouveryverymuch · 17/04/2011 16:55

Toxoplasmosis rates in the UK are about 30%, in France it's 65% which is why we test routinely as if you haven't had it the fact it's twice as common means you're twice as likely to get it...


takethatlady · 17/04/2011 17:21

Oh bugger I just lost my whole post.

Thank you SO much ladies, the reassurance really helps. We did have cats when I was a toddler, and then we got another cat when I was about 15 (I left home at 18). So perhaps I am immune (fingers crossed). I have been thinking about it and yesterday I only did an hour in the garden and was mostly digging with a spade while DH got down in the soil, and though i did pull out weeds with my bare hands I barely touched the soil at all. I washed my hands when I came in but they looked clean. Then today I was wearing gloves while weeding and only took them off when I mowed the lawn, which involves regular emptying of grass from the mower, but really I was touching grass and not soil so much. Though my hands were dirty. But hopefully that means my actual contact with the soil has been pretty minimal, and I keep reading that it has to be direct contact with soil contaminated with cat faeces. Hopefully this means the chances are really low.

Thank you frak - I will call my midwife tomorrow as others have suggested and ask her for the tests. I'm a bit worried she'll think I'm mad but I'd much rather be safe than sorry.

I don't know why I'm panicking so much. Having spent the last week smugly thinking how relaxed I am and reading PFB threads with much amusement, suddenly I'm panicking that I am in fact the worst mother in the entire world and bursting into tears at the slightest mention of soil ...

I really really appreciate everybody replying to me :)

OP posts:

takethatlady · 17/04/2011 17:22

PS - I don't know if I was tested at the beginning. I don't think it's routine in the UK, as you say, but I'll go and check my notes just in case.

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takethatlady · 17/04/2011 17:24

PPS - no, I don't usually do any gardening at all. This is our fourth summer in this house and we've done the odd bit of weeding/mowing, etc, but I'd say the sum total of my gardening experience is about four or five days. Which is why it's completely ridiculous that I have been out there doing it now. What a stupid moment of madness. I am usually as lazy as can be :(

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bemybebe · 17/04/2011 17:27

frakyouveryverymuch what do you mean by '30% rates'?


takethatlady · 17/04/2011 17:30

bemybebe I have seen that statistic online - I think it means that 30% of us are already immune in the UK (i.e have already been exposed to it - it's like chicken pox, so once you've had it you're immune), while 65% of people have in France - presumably because more people are involved in agricultural/rural occupations in France (??)

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ShowOfHands · 17/04/2011 17:30

It is highly unlikely that you will contract toxoplasmosis. And then even more unlikely that your baby will have congenital toxoplasmosis, even if it did happen. My midwife rationalised the risk as around the same as the risk of your uterus rupturing during labour. And that happens rarely and you don't worry about it. Chances of a baby being born with congenital toxoplasmosis are around 3 in 100,000.

They don't test for it here as a matter of routine but if you're really worried, check with your midwife and see what s/he thinks.


ShowOfHands · 17/04/2011 17:31

In the UK around half of the population is immune.


iskra · 17/04/2011 17:34

takethatlady, I asked my midwife about toxoplasmosis in my first pregnancy because we were thinking about getting a cat. She said that if I had ever dug in the dirt I would basically be immune.


takethatlady · 17/04/2011 17:35

Thank you ladies. That 3 in 100000 statistic is certainly comforting. I think I must just be having a crazy hormonal pregnant lady day. Haven't had too many of those, so I should probably count myself lucky :)

I hope I am immune, having suddenly decided to dig in the dirt regardless!

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ShowOfHands · 17/04/2011 17:45

You are allowed to be crazy and hormonal once per trimester for big madness, once per month for trifling matters. It's the law.

If you think about the risks of everything else (have you had an NT scan or triple test or whatever for example and a subsequent DS risk perhaps), risks of early miscarriage, risks of premature labour, risks of uterine rupture as I said, risks of preeclampsia etc etc, toxoplasmosis is actually comparatively low.

I know why you're worrying, because you think you've been reckless and you could have avoided this particular risk. But you can't go through pregnancy thinking like that about every little thing. You'd break the aforementioned law.


bemybebe · 17/04/2011 17:47

takethatlady ah, ok


takethatlady · 17/04/2011 17:53

Grin showofhands.

I am pleased to see that I am not breaking the law yet. I have only had one other big madness moment, I think. I thought the pregnancy was ectopic when I was 5 weeks (to be fair, I lost a baby the previous cycle at 5 weeks). Went to A & E with DH. DH was madder than me, because he fainted when I had a blood test and then spilt Dr. Pepper all over his crotch so it looked like he had wet himself. After all that it turned out I had trapped wind Blush Grin. I'm surprised they let us out of the hospital, to be honest!

Monthly madness over trivial matters ... I'm not going to think about that, since I currently believe I have not had any such episodes. Although I did do about 20 pregnancy tests in the first trimester ... and I have sworn at a lot of other drivers on the road ... hmmm. Yes, best not to think about it Grin

On a serious note, you're absolutely right about the comparable risks and it is just what I needed to hear. I'll still ring the midwife for double reassurance (and avoid eating any more soil!) but I am so glad this thread has helped me put things in perspective. I had half a thought when I posted that I might get flamed for being ignorant and irresponsible ...

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SpringFollows · 17/04/2011 17:55

I honestly would think- based on the fact you had cats in your toddler-hood and later as a teen that you would be immune. But check if it puts your mind at rest.

Oh, it brings back memories of my utter fear when pg. I did not know I was pg until 12 weeks, and previously had had about 3 major booze ups. i was petrified about foetal alcohol syndrome. Then about toxoplasmosis as I woke up one night to find my beloved cat (sadly now deceased) sleeping with her paw (she scratches in the litter tray!) on my cheek.

Then i had an MRI scan when 32 weeks and had to be on my back for 20 mins and panicked about the baby not getting oxygen.

Then I craved parma ham throughout my pregnancy and one day (after eating it a zillion times) googled 'parma ham and pregnancy'.

Being pg is so scary.

(Now I just wake 5 times a night to poke the baby to make sure he is still breathing)

But really, toxoplasmosis is ever so rare. Thankfully. :)


takethatlady · 17/04/2011 18:00

:) springfollows. I had to confirm who I was on NHS Direct today by telling them the other things I had called them for. One was for a blister five years ago Blush (my dad called as I burnt my hand while I was cooking and told me I would be 'deformed' if a blister formed, which it did, and that I should go immediately to A & E - I did, and spent 8 hours there for no good reason). The other was for the trapped wind incident mentioned above. God knows how I've actually got through this pregnancy with at least half a belief in my own sanity :)

FWIW, my auntie is an alcoholic and didn't quit through all three of her pregnancies, and my cousin (not the child of the auntie!) had a baby a few months ago who was very underweight because she had been binge drinking all the way through the pregnancy. Despite the underweightness all four babies/people are absolutely fine - one of them is in the army now and two of them are studying for GCSEs/A levels. Not that I'm advocating such behaviour, obviously - but it does help me keep things in perspective. Even when you do things as badly wrong as that the chances are you'll be fine, and most of the stuff that can go wrong you can do nothing about.

Just got to keep thinking of that :)

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microserf · 17/04/2011 18:49

you would be really unlucky to get toxoplasmosis from one incident like that. i was pregnant in france where they are really concerned about it. i was not immune, so had monthly blood tests and had to eat really well cooked meat and avoid all salads i hadn't washed myself. drove dh mad with a "triple washing" technique to avoid it!

from what i know - ask to get tested for immunity. there are usually no symptoms for an infection, so if you are not already immune, you might want to ask for monthly follow ups. i would do the last one 1 month after the birth as the immune response takes some time. i think there is not very much they can do if you have got it, but i really think your chances are very small.

you are likely to get some resistance. i accidentally ate steak tartare in france not realising i was pregnant. i had a really hard time convincing my gp to sign off on the tests and the blood test nurse had never heard of it. i did get them in the end though and all my tests came back negative, and that's probably much higher risk!


takethatlady · 18/04/2011 08:59

microserf thank you! I wish there was a way of finding out the actual risk of getting it from gardening, but all my googling has been to no avail on that score.

I tried to phone my mw this morning but the only number you can use for her is a pager service, and I never know if the messages even get through. It's bloody annoying. It's also weird saying to a woman who works for the pager company 'Please contact ttl who is worried she may have been exposed to toxoplasmosis', and then having to spell out toxoplasmosis. But hopefully the mw will get the message and call back and I can ask for the blood test, just to put my mind at rest.

Got to stop worrying about this!

OP posts:
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