I’ve never really liked cats, so having one in my home during pregnancy was never an option or problem, but some couples are just as attached to their cats as they are their children. Pregnant women should never come in contact with the cat litter box because of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite that may be found in cat feces. The parasite can move to the brain if the pregnant woman ingests it by accident and cause health problems during pregnancy, but it is the possible side effects after pregnancy that researchers are now reporting. According to a study out of Denmark, the Toxoplasma gondii parasite could lead to increased risk of suicide later in life.
Are Researchers Reporting the Facts or Molded Results?
When I read over the study I found it interesting that authors claimed women with a history of mental illness had a higher rate of suicide attempts than women without mental illness. That is a given as mental illness is likely the leading cause of attempted suicide, but where does the connection between the parasite and attempted suicide occur?
According to researchers, the parasite may infect the same parts of the brain affected by mental illness. These parts of the brain play a part in mood and emotion. Researchers also noted that women most affected by the increased risk could have been recently infected as antibody levels were higher. Either way, women carrying the parasite may be at increased risk of self-induced harm.
Symptoms of a Toxoplasma Gondii Infection
If a pregnant woman comes in contact with the parasite she may suffer symptoms of the flu, including fever and fatigue. The fetus can be infected and infection of the fetus can cause death. Even after birth there can be long-term side effects of infection that may include cerebral palsy, epilepsy, blindness or deafness. It is estimated that more than 60 million people currently carry the parasite.