Colombian songstress Shakira is indeed pregnant, and according to HuffPost Voces, the 35-year-old star expects to deliver her baby by caesarean section in January of next year. According to the report, the singer and her boyfriend, soccer player Gerard Pique, have remained silent about the pregnancy due to the potential complications arising from a condition known as toxoplasmosis, which Shakira might suffer from.
What is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is a blood infection caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, one of the most common parasites found around the world. Primarily an infection found in felines, toxoplasmosis can also be transmitted to birds, humans and many other mammals. It is spread through oral ingestion of the parasite or less commonly through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
Oral contamination, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), can occur through:
- Careless handling of cat feces
- Ingestion of contaminated soil
- Eating undercooked pork, beef, or lamb
- Eating unwashed fruits or vegetables
- Drinking contaminated water
Why is toxoplasmosis dangerous for pregnant women?
In healthy individuals, toxoplasmosis may cause flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all. Many people have been exposed to the parasite and are completely unaware because their bodies were able to handle the infection; however, for infants and people with compromised immune systems, toxoplasmosis can cause severe medical issues.
When a mother-to-be is infected with toxoplasmosis, she can pass the parasite to her unborn baby, and the condition is known as congenital toxoplasmosis. NLM states the earlier the infection during pregnancy the more severe symptoms become further down the road.
Approximately 30 percent of mothers who have become infected with toxoplasmosis for the first time before or during pregnancy will pass the parasite on to their child, and more than half of babies with congenital toxoplasmosis are born prematurely. Even infants born without symptoms often develop serious issues within a few months of birth.
Issues associated with congenital toxoplasmosis include:
- Eye damage
- Loss of hearing
- Low birth weight
- Enlarged liver and spleen
- Rash at time of birth
- Mental retardation
If any of the above symptoms are noted at the time of birth, a physician will verify the presence of toxoplasmosis and initiate medical treatment. The outcome depends on the severity of the issues present; many babies have irreversible vision and neurologic damage and other babies present only minor issues.
What about toxoplasmosis in the mother?
In a healthy mother, the Mayo Clinic states toxoplasmosis rarely causes major complications. The human immune system is generally able to fight off the parasite, which can migrate to almost any area of the body and form cysts.
Symptoms in a healthy mother or adult, if there are any, include:
- Body aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Sore throat
Mothers and adults with compromised immune systems may experience more severe symptoms such as:
- Blurred vision
- Loss of coordination
- Lung issues
How is toxoplasmosis treated?
Healthy individuals do not usually need medical intervention when toxoplasmosis is detected. Pregnant women, however, are often administered the antibiotic spiramycin. Spiramycin is obtained only directly through the FDA in the United States because it is still considered “experimental.” It is far safer for mothers and babies, however, than the treatment for non-pregnant individuals—pyrimethamine and sulfadiazine.
There is no word yet as to whether Shakira is indeed suffering from toxoplasmosis and if a treatment plan for her and her baby has been outlined.
What is the expected outcome for a toxoplasmosis case?
Detection and prompt treatment of toxoplasmosis is key during pregnancy. Medications can prevent the disease from causing damage, but cannot cure any issues which have already occurred.
How can you prevent toxoplasmosis?
Preventing toxoplasmosis is the best way to ensure your baby will not be at risk during pregnancy. The Mayo Clinic recommends:
- Cooking meat thoroughly
- Wearing gloves when working in the garden or handling soil
- Washing fruits and vegetables
- Covering children’s sandboxes (cats and other animals like to defecate in loose, sandy soil)
- Do not drink unpasteurized milk
- Keep your cat healthy with regular veterinary checks
- Do not take in stray animals while pregnant
- Have another family member clean the house cat’s litter box
For women concerned about toxoplasmosis and considering pregnancy, a doctor can run a preliminary blood screening to check for toxoplasmosis exposure.
According to the HuffPost report, Shakira has been under the care of renowned doctor, Víctor Gonzalez-Quinteros. Rumors have been circulating about the singer expecting a baby boy, however an insider states the gender of the baby has not yet been determined.