Listeriosis and Toxoplasmosis
This is a type of food poisoning caused by the Listeria bacterium. Symptoms include a high temperature, aching muscles, back pain, sickness and diarrhoea, rather like those of flu or an ordinary stomach upset. However, they often appear some time after you have been exposed to the bacterium, so it is often tricky to spot that you have had listeriosis. If it is not treated, listeriosis can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, or make your baby more likely to suffer from breathing problems, hypothermia or meningitis after birth. Follow the basic food safety rules and avoid foods that commonly carry the bacterium. If you suspect that you have contracted listeriosis, speak to your doctor, who can arrange a blood test to find out. If necessary, she will prescribe antibiotics that are safe for use during pregnancy.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by Toxoplasma, a parasite that is carried in raw or undercooked meat and cat faeces. Symptoms include swollen glands in the neck, aching muscles, headaches and fatigue, again rather like those of flu. Although not serious in adults, toxoplasmosis can have major implications for your unborn baby. It can cause miscarriage or stillbirth, and babies born to infected mothers often have eye problems or 'water on the brain' (hydrocephalus).
If you own a cat, you may already have developed an immunity by coming into contact with toxoplasmosis in its faeces. However, to be safe, you should avoid emptying or touching your cat's litter tray throughout your pregnancy. If there is no one else who can empty the tray for you, use a new, clean pair of disposable rubber gloves each time. You should also get someone to clean your cat's litter tray every day and fill it with boiling water for 5 minutes to kill off bacteria and wash your hands after throwing the gloves away. Again, it is important to be particularly aware of food safety.
Did you know?
Even if you do not own a cat, local cats may have visited your garden, so wear rubber gloves when gardening in case you come into contact with any cat faeces - and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
Listeria cannot survive high temperatures, so if food is piping hot and cooked through, it is safe. This also applies to soft cheeses, like Brie or stilton, if they are grilled or cooked in sauces.