If you're pregnant and have a cat, you may have been told not to change the litter box. This is because the parasite Toxoplasma can be found in cat feces and can cause Toxoplasmosis which in turn can cause miscarriage. Toxoplasmosis is spread when cats eat birds or rodents infected with the parasite. Even if you don't have a cat, it's possible to contract the infection through garden soil or eating unwashed produce.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that as many as “60 million men women and children in the United States carry the infection.” In parts of the developing world the rates of infection can be much higher.
Most people's immune systems will fight the infection off. However, a woman who gets the infection for the first time either just prior to or just after becoming pregnant can pass it along to her unborn baby. The infection can then cause a miscarriage. People with suppressed immune systems can also be at higher risk of the infection.
There is good news about this parasite however. First of all, if you've had the infection once, you'll have antibodies and will be unlikely to get it again. Many people who have owned a cat for any length of time, may have already had the infection. Toxoplasmosis does not always occur with symptoms, so you may have had it even if you didn't feel ill. When symptoms are present, they are generally mild and flu-like according to the CDC.
What if you have no one else can change the littler box? Don't despair, you still don't have to give up Fluffy. Doctors recommend using disposable gloves and hand washing after the litter box is changed. The CDC also recommends changing the littler box daily as the parasite “does not become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it is shed in a cat's feces.”. They also recommend not adopting any new cats during pregnancy, wearing gloves when gardening and washing fruits and vegetables.
There are a lot of scary, unpreventable cause of miscarriage. Fortunately, Toxoplasmosis can be prevented by taking a few simple precautions against it.