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How do I know if I can eat ham when pregnant? 9 tips to avoid toxoplasmosis

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One of the most frequently asked questions by pregnant women during their first visit is if you can eat anything and, more specifically, if you can eat ham. This is because you have heard of toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite, the Toxoplasma gondii.

And the infection of a healthy, non-pregnant person by Toxoplasma usually It is not detected, it is asymptomatic, and it does not produce sequelae.. Some people develop flu-like symptoms such as headache and body aches, fever, tiredness, and swollen lymph nodes.

But infection by this parasite During pregnancy it can affect the fetus at the level of the nervous, ocular and blood systems.. Although fetal infection does not occur in all cases, its incidence increases as the pregnant woman becomes more weeks pregnant. Only a very low percentage of babies are affected at birth.

In most cases, The transmission of this parasite is usually contracted through the ingestion of raw or undercooked meat. or exposure to infected cat feces. Dirt, poorly washed vegetables and contact with cats can be other contaminating sources.

Measures to take into account

Approximately 20% of the population in our environment has acquired immunity to Toxoplasmahas antibodies because it has been in contact and, therefore, in the event of pregnancy it will present immunity against the disease.

That is to say, A pregnant woman who presents antibodies against Toxoplasma prior to pregnancy is protected. of contracting the infection again.

In the case of a first pregnancy, generally, It is not known whether or not you have antibodies, so it is advisable to take the following precautions:

Take meat well cookedmade at temperatures above 80 degrees or with prior freezing at temperatures below 18 below zero for 48 hours.

– Raw sausages and ham can also present toxoplasmosis.

Wash your hands wellwith hot water and soap, before handling food.

Wash and disinfect kitchen utensils with hot water and soap, especially knives and boards on which raw meat must be cut to avoid cross contamination.

– After handle raw meat You have to wash your hands very well.

Avoid consumption of unpasteurized milksince unpasteurized dairy products may contain Toxoplasma parasites.

– In case of gardening work or soil manipulation It is necessary to use gloves and at the end you have to wash Wash your hands well with soap and water.

Wash and scrub fresh fruits and vegetables especially if they are going to be eaten raw. Peel the fruit after washing it.

– If you have a cat, avoid cleaning his feces, replace raw meat with feed or canned food and avoid contact with other cats (do not go outside).

Toxoplasma gondii

Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled parasitic organism that can infect most animals. These organisms are excreted in cat feces.
Currently in the Catalonia pregnancy monitoring guide, systematic screening is not included of Toxoplasma infection.

However, at the discretion of the gynecologist, specific analyzes will be carried out in case of detection of ultrasound alterations compatible with this disease or based on the clinical history of the pregnant woman.

Regarding the question of whether you can eat ham or not, I always answer that, if we do not know our immunity to Toxoplasma, It is advisable to freeze foods of meat origin such as ham and sausages in general or not consume them during pregnancy.

*Dr. Joan Manuel Xiberta is head of the Gynecology and Obstetrics Service at the Hospital Universitari General de Catalunya.

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