Pregnancy, Pets and Precautions

If you have pets you know they are really part of the family - especially if you had them before you became pregnant. For many couples, their pets are like their "kids" and the pets are fully aware of their place in the family unit. When you become pregnant, not only do the pets sense the changes, there will be some things you'll have to put into place to make the home a safe place for both the new baby and the pets once the baby arrives. Having pets while you are pregnant is not difficult, but it does require some adjustments.

Dogs And Pregnancy

Generally speaking, having a dog when you're pregnant poses no great threat to your health or to the health of the baby, as do some other types of pets. However, if you've treated your big dog like a lap dog, allowing him to jump up on you, sit on your lap (even though he weighs 70 pounds) or rough house with you, then you're going to have to spend some time retraining him - fast. A sound hit in the abdomen can cause some serious problems for you during your pregnancy, and the weight of a big dog on your body can also be dangerous not to mention uncomfortable. It isn't necessarily safe to play hard with the dog while you are pregnant. Let your partner rough house with him.

The other issue with dogs is parasites that can be passed to you and members of the family. A visit to the vet to ensure the dog's health is good and there are no parasites will make life a lot healthier all the way around. Although you probably don't need to be reminded, it is important to wash your hands well after you've handled your pet or if you've been doing doggie-do pickup.

Making the Transition: Babies and Pets

There are a few things you can do to make the transition from childless with dog to baby and dog in the same house that will make life a whole lot easier and more pleasant for everyone.

· If your dog has some habits or behaviors that may be problematic once the baby arrives re-train the dog right away.

· Begin familiarizing your dog with the new routines and the idea of a baby in the house so the dog won't be too confused when the baby comes and your routines change. Remember, your dog is already aware that something is up - and is aware of the physiological changes that are already happening in your body. Your dog's response will be noticeable, probably more protective.

· Teach your dog which toys are his and which toys aren't for him to play with.

· Once the baby comes, include the dog in some of the time you spend with the baby so there is no chance of jealousy.

· Always monitor times when the baby and the dog are together.

Owned by a Cat

Cats tend to think they own their people. Dogs know their people own them. Having said that, the fact is that cats can be a lot of fun and are generally quite affectionate - whether they own you or you own them. However, there are some considerations you need to take into account when having cats as pets while you are pregnant.

Toxoplasmosis is an infection that is caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. The illness associated with infection tends to be mild with few or no symptoms in those with a healthy immune system. However, it can be a risk in pregnancy because the parasite can infect the placenta and ultimately your baby. Cats, particularly outdoor cats, are carriers of this parasite. If the cat is an indoor cat, the cat litter box can harbor the infection.

Toxoplasma gondii affects between 400 and 4,000 births in the US every year, according to research. The infection can be mild or serious; it can cause stillbirth, neurological damage and long-term structural damage as well. As disconcerting as it is, there are things you can do to decrease the risk - without getting rid of your pets while you are pregnant.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) advise that about 15 percent of women of childbearing age are immune to toxoplasmosis and, if a woman has owned a cat for a long time, the chance of immunity is higher. Transmission of the infection happens when you come in contact with cat feces, whether from the cat litter box or from digging in the garden where the cat has buried its waste. It is also transmitted through raw or undercooked meat.

Creating a Safe Environment

If you have cats as pets while you are pregnant, here are some tips to help you create an environment that is safe for you, your new baby, and your pets.

· If you are not yet pregnant and you do have a cat, before becoming pregnant ask for a blood test to determine if you are immune to toxoplasmosis.

· If your cats are outdoor pets, be sure to wear gloves if you're digging in the garden. Toxoplasma gondii eggs can live in cat feces for up to 18 months if the feces are buried in moist earth.

· Cat littler is dangerous, so have someone else change the cat litter box.

· Monitor your cat with the baby once the baby arrives.

Does Your Pet Know?

Having pets while you are pregnant should continue to be a great thing. You'll be amazed at how perceptive they are during your pregnancy. It's interesting to note the behavioral changes they experience. If you need help determining what those changes are, read our article about cats, dogs and pregnancy in this section.

Learn more about Pets And Pregnancy

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