PETS IN PREGNANCY
I am often asked by pregnant women if there is anything they can do to prepare a cat or a dog for the upcoming arrival of a new baby, especially if this is their first child. Invariably patients mention that up until now their pet has been their baby. I always suggest that there are a number of things that can be done prior to a baby’s arrival. Firstly, get the pet used to any gates and barriers that you wish to put up to prevent direct contact between your pet and the new baby. If you are going to allow your pet in to the baby’s room, introduce your pet to the room as soon as it is set up for the new arrival. If you are going to have to change your pet’s schedule such as the time for walks etc., certainly you should start gradually introducing these changes well before the baby arrives. I also suggest that there is some good scientific evidence that after the baby is born, bring a blanket or some other item with the baby’s scent on it home and introduce it to the pet before the baby is brought home.
Always introduce your pet to the baby with a positive reassuring attitude and try and continue the pet’s newly adjusted routine as usual. It is common sense to never leave a cat or a dog unsupervised with the baby or toddler. I once had a patient ask me about introducing a pet to her upcoming baby and found out that the pet was a large python. I suggested to the patient that I couldn’t think of any positive benefit to the baby from meeting the python while the baby was an appropriate size to be considered a dietary condiment by the python!
The only disease that could affect the fetus that is associated with pets is toxoplasmosis which is potentially present in cat faeces. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection which is particularly uncommon in Australia with higher rates in Europe, particularly in France. The risk of infection in pregnancy in Australia is estimated to be less than 1:1000, indicating it is not a common cause for concern. Therefore toxoplasmosis screening is not a routine test in pregnant women in Australia but I do carry it out in patients who for example work in the veterinary industry or if patients with cats prefer to have the test. About ten to twenty percent of Australian women are immune to toxoplasmosis and they have usually come in to contact with the disease in childhood. To avoid toxoplasmosis do not feed your cat raw meat, which is another source of the infection, someone else should clean the litter tray, not the pregnant woman, always wear gloves whilst gardening in case a cat has soiled in the garden and always thoroughly cook all meat especially beef and pork.
Dr Len Kliman is one of Melbourne’s most experienced and respected Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. With over thirty years of experience, Dr Kliman has delivered over 20,000 babies and still counting! In 2017, Dr Kliman was awarded an Order Of Australia for his services to obstetrics and gynaecology.