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KEEPING PETS WHILE PREGNANT — IS IT OK?

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Will the family pet affect your baby's development? Here's what you need to know.

With a baby bump already blossoming at week 13, these are exciting times for the entire family — but what if the family also includes pets?

It's not uncommon for the average Singaporean household to own a pet — dogs, cats and birds seem to be the norm. However, how will these animals react to the baby? Even if they're docile for the most part, are there any diseases that may affect the new arrival in your family?

The good news is that you don't necessarily have to put your family pet up for adoption just because you're expecting.

Are dogs safe to have around when there's a baby in the house?

Dogs are safe for you and your baby. However, larger breeds may jump on your tummy while you're sitting or lying down, and accidentally cause injuries.

Is keeping a cat a good idea?

Now this is where it gets a little tricky. Cats may transmit toxoplasmosis, a type of parasitic infection that may cause premature delivery, malformations, mental retardation and low birth weight. When you're clearing out the litter box, you may come in direct contact with the cat's faeces, which leads to transmission. Also, if you have a garden area and your cat buries its faeces there, you may come into contact with it while gardening, which may allow the parasite to transmit.

What should I do now if I have a cat?

The good news is that if you've already been infected before pregnancy, you're most likely to be immune and will not be infected again. The easiest course of action if you're a cat owner is to ask your doctor to take a simple blood test to confirm if you're immune. If you're not immune, you have to take extra precautions in avoiding direct contact with your cat's litter and ensuring that your cat is not exposed to other cats or their faeces that may cause it to be newly infected. Acquiring a new cat is also not advisable while you're pregnant, if you're not already immune.

What about domesticated birds — are they safe?

Birds can transmit infections like campylobacter and salmonella, which can cause complications like miscarriages in early pregnancy or stillbirths in advanced pregnancy.

What should I do now if I have a pet bird?

Take the bird to your vet to check for any infection. Also, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water following any handling of the bird or its cage.


By Associate Professor TAN Thiam Chye Head & Senior Consultant, Dr Janice TUNG Senior O&G Resident, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, KK Women's and Children's Hospital

Sources:
The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth 2008, World Scientific
Healthy Start for your Pregnancy 2012, Health Promotion Board Singapore

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