Drinking and cat litter scooping before knowing about pregnancy
September 21, 2018 3:28 AM   Subscribe

I'm 6 days late, and took a home pregnancy test that came up positive twice today. Going to confirm this with a doctor soon. This is happy if somewhat unexpected news, but I'm stressed that I had some alcohol about two weeks ago at a wedding (1/2 glass of champagne, and 1/2 glass wine).

I wish I had been more careful. I know people say some alcohol is okay, but on the other hand, I'm fairly small-built and always get pretty drunk after just one drink, so I'm afraid my body is sensitive to it.

The other worry is that I've been scooping the cat's litter every day (husband's taking over starting now). It's an indoor-only healthy cat that's fed with commercial dry and canned food, but sometimes has refrigerated raw cat food, which we'll be stopping.

Assuming the doctor confirms I'm pregnant, are there tests to detect if I've contracted toxoplasmosis, or if there are adverse affects of the alcohol in the embryo? Should I test the cat?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your doctor can do a blood test for toxoplasmosis. (Your chances of contracting it at that exact time and of passing it to the baby are low, but if ruling it out would put your mind at rest then yes the option’s definitely there.)

I would not worry at all about the alcohol. From your timelines you would have been so early in pregnancy at this point that the embryo would likely have not even implanted yet, and there would have been no way to pass the alcohol in your blood supply to its.
posted by Catseye at 3:39 AM on September 21, 2018 [19 favorites]

1) Agreed on the alcohol. I mean, two weeks ago, the fertilized egg probably hadn't even implanted in your uterine wall yet.

2) There is a test for toxoplasmosis. It's neat because it can also tell you if you already have it (which I believe means you don't have to worry about the initial infection happening during pregnancy). Not sure if it'd register positive yet, though -- there's a lot on this if you Google the question.

3) You don't get it just by scooping the poop. You get it by getting poop in your mouth, e.g., by getting it on your hands and then eating. I spent some time trying to figure out if dust / inhalation was an exposure pathway, and while I couldn't completely rule it out, everything I've seen from reliable medical sources tells people who can't avoid being the one to scoop the poop to wear gloves, but it never mentions a face mask. So if you are generally good about washing your hands, that can give some relief. Also, apparently the litter doesn't become infectious for "1-5 days," so if you scoop regularly, you probably caught most of it before it was even infectious. And it's only infectious for a certain period of time after your cat caught it. So these improbable events would all have had to occur: your cat just caught it, the poop stayed in the box long enough to become infectious, and your poop-avoidance and hand-washing both failed enough that you ate some poop.

4) Both times I got pregnant, these weeks were full of exactly this kind of anxiety. It's so normal, and I tend to think it is sort of (in my case at least) a way of concretizing a more general sense of "holy #@$ I'm pregnant!" For some people at least, pregnancy brings up a lot of anxiety, both because of how major everything is, and probably partly due to the hormones. If you spin from this to multiple other worries, (a) it's normal, (b) there are some good coping strategies out there to help.

5) The other health and safety thing to think about in the early days is to start a prenatal if you haven't already been taking one.

6) Another good resource for the millions of other pregnancy questions you might have are the reddit forums like /r/babybumps, in case you haven't found that yet.

posted by slidell at 4:21 AM on September 21, 2018 [24 favorites]

Congrats! Other folks will chime in about the science I’m sure but your experience and concern about drinking before finding out you’re pregnant is VERY VERY common. I went on a bit of a wild bender at a friend’s birthday party the day before I got a surprise positive pregnancy result. I know you’re not looking for anecdotal advice but just to say that this is a thing that happens to many many responsible people and sometimes just realizing how not alone you are can help. Anxieties feast on isolation. Come join us on the metafilter pregnancy / parenting group on FB if you’d like. Lots of wise warm been there done that folks who dont fear monger and who reassure each other thru anxieties and stresses. Just MeMail me to join, any of you.
posted by sestaaak at 5:46 AM on September 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

If it helps you destress in the near term, I have a friend who takes care of other people’s pets for a living (dozens of dogs and cats, including litter scooping), and still tested negative for toxoplasmosis when she got pregnant.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:17 AM on September 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

A close friend of mine is a parasitologist. She told me that the concern with toxoplasmosis and pregnancy is about getting the parasite while you are pregnant. If you already have it, it isn't passed to the child -- it's when you get infected while you are pregnant that it is a problem. The good news is that if you've had the cat for a while, and your hand hygiene habits are such that you were going to get it -- you probably already have it -- and if your hand hygiene habits are good, it's not much of a worry. It's great that your husband is taking over the scooping, but the risk here is so so low, I wouldn't stress it. And definitely get the test done by your doctor to take the worry off your mind!
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:20 AM on September 21, 2018

Damage to a fetus comes from prolonged exposure. Two half-drinks isn't even enough really to do much of anything, and your liver likely dealt with it long before it would have been an issue, even if the egg had implanted by then, which it likely hadn't. To do anything like damage to a fetus you need like, a whole bottle of wine and a whole bottle of champagne with some regularity over the whole pregnancy. You're fine.

As far as toxoplasmosis goes, getting tested is a good idea but from how you feed your cat it seems unlikely that you'd have picked it up from a few scoopings. Like OrangeDisk said, if you were going to get it from that cat, you'd already have it and it's not going to hurt the baby.
posted by Jilder at 6:23 AM on September 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Anecdotal: I drank throughout my pregnancy (like, sometimes 3 glasses of wine in a night) and my kid is a genius miracle of nature. YMMV.
posted by tristeza at 7:56 AM on September 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

So when your egg and his sperm got together and cells start to divide, the little embryo has its own yolk sac that sustains it as it makes its way to your uterus and starts to implant. Even after implantation it consumes this yolk until the blood supply is established - I have heard that can take a few weeks! So two weeks ago, nothing you ate or drank could really affect the fetus.

Beyond that, the science of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is complex. To be blunt, it is not something that babies get when their middle-class moms have a few glasses of wine at any stage of pregnancy. It is a function of alcoholism + poor nutrition + lack of access to health care.

I have been through this stage of pregnancy twice. The first time it was incredibly nerve-wracking for me and I constantly worried. The second time, I realized that beyond a few preventative measure, the whole process of birth is literally beyond my control. I took care of my body to the best of my ability and just had to wait as the embryo developed.
posted by muddgirl at 8:17 AM on September 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

Everyone is right, so I'll just chime in to add that Emily Oster covers both of these topics in the MeFi favorite "Expecting Better." I suspect you will find this book greatly reassuring -- I know I did.
posted by natabat at 9:27 AM on September 21, 2018 [8 favorites]

My wife broke down into tears when she realized that she was pregnant and had imbibed some beer over the weekend before knowing it... the whole "I just got pregnant and I'm already a bad mom" guilt.

There is nothing to beat yourself up about here. Our kid is now 9, and he's totally fine. And my wife is an awesome mom, and it's likely that with your level of early concern, you will be too.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:12 PM on September 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Got barfing drunk including smoking cigars, 2 weeks later guess whaaaat!!!
My kid is fine. Yours is too. Congratulations!!!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:43 PM on September 21, 2018

Oh also, I mentioned this to my dr she said I was fine.
About the cats, the vet said getting them tested isn’t so helpful, they can have it and then not have it a month later. So it’s best to test yourself. I believe this test was $150 but my insurance covered most of it.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:50 PM on September 21, 2018

That amount of alcohol at that point in pregnancy is absolutely a non-issue. Congratulations!!!
posted by lydhre at 3:36 PM on September 21, 2018

That low amount of alchohol shouldn't be a problem that early in pregnancy (basically before implantation).

About toxoplasmosis, I found this article reassuring The Pregnant Scientist on toxoplasmosis. You are probably more likely to catch it from undercooked meat. When I was pregnant and my partner couldn't scoop, I used mask and gloves just to be super cautious.

And yes, start taking a prenatal vitamin now.

posted by weathergal at 4:34 PM on September 21, 2018

[Mr.Know-it-some, Ask isn't for arguing with other commenters, and please don't repost comments that have been deleted.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:46 PM on September 21, 2018

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