Pregnancy is a special time. It’s a time filled with hope and change. Many things we’ve enjoyed before must be enjoyed in moderation or with special precautions in place. And it’s ok. Being careful does not mean those things were in any way bad for us! For instance, exercise, as we know, is extremely beneficial, but in pregnancy must be monitored. The same applies to our furry companions. Let’s take a look at benefits and discuss the precautions of having pets during pregnancy.
First of all, pets are mood elevators. Caring for a kitty or a puppy may prevent depression because playing with or even petting an animal increases our oxytocin levels, and those reduce stress and decreases cortisol production, and cortisol is a stress hormone, which we don’t need any more of in pregnancy, duh! Besides, horrendous advice some women are given, namely to give up a pet during pregnancy can cause unneeded emotional strain which is not what the developing baby or the restless mama needs!
Living with pets improves overall health. And this applies even more to children growing up with animals. How? Exposure to common allergens from early life reduces the risk of developing allergies to them. Also if an adult suffers from a mild to moderate allergy but is exposed to the allergen on a day to day basis, they have a chance of eliminating said allergy completely. It happened to my husband and his mild cat allergy!
What is even more impressive, common pets like dogs and cats can sense danger. Not only can they warn you about imminent threat like a stranger approaching your property, but also dogs and cats can calm down their anxious owners preventing full-blown panic attacks. Both dogs and cats, probably due to their sense of smell may even detect diseases and act up, urging their owners to go get a medical check-up.
But how to prepare? Firstly, when pregnant (and forgetful) ask your partner and family for help and make sure your pets are up to date with their check-ups and vaccinations! Also be always stocked up with appropriate pet food, to avoid panic runs to the store when you can barely move. It would be a smart decision as well to arrange for a trusted pet sitter for the time of birth and then for their assistance during the hazy newborn stage. Believe me, accept all the help you can get!
Our noble feline companions have a bad rap for toxoplasmosis, an infection people can get from improper handling of cat litter (I mean from not washing your hands after cleaning it… But please, pregnant or not, just wash your hands anyway, will you?). Humans get toxoplasmosis mostly from undercooked meat like lamb or deer meat (venison), or unwashed produce contaminated with said meat. Infections are mild, often even unnoticed and create immunity for life. Pregnant women and women planning pregnancy should test for antibodies just to be calm. Often toxoplasmosis doesn’t affect the foetus, but if you are diagnosed during pregnancy, you can and should receive treatment.
Walking makes the dog and the mama happy. Regular and mild exercise helps pregnant women stay in shape, especially in a time where cardiovascular health is very important. Stretching your legs is an excellent way to prevent blood clots in pregnancy! You can walk without a dog, you say? Perhaps, but without a doggy waggling their tail at the door, you have a great excuse not to! Good tip? If you have a dog and are planning pregnancy, spend some time teaching him or her some manners. Don’t let them jump up on you and negotiate the nibbling and the biting. It would be advisable to purchase some extra doggy toys and treats to help with the transition.
Hamsters, guinea pigs and mice and other rodents may carry lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (also called LCMV). These pets are not the source of this disease, wild/house mice are. Wild mice are also the main source of infections in humans, which are, thankfully, very rare. The symptoms resemble the flu’s and maybe serious if you have an underlying condition or are transplant patient, and are very dangerous to the foetus. LCMV can be prevented by avoiding contact with house and wild mice and by taking precautions when handling pet rodent.
Especially when it comes to cats and dogs familiarity is important. Prepare your pets before introducing your new baby to them. Let them smell the clothes baby wore, have someone close give them extra attention and treats, obviously, treats help with everything (this applies also to human babies, which you will also soon learn).
Babies are babies
Having pets before and while pregnant may prepare you for the discipline needed to take care of a child. Of course, pets are a lot easier than children, and adopting them is as if giving birth to an already self-sufficient teenager! But taking care of animals helps you become less of a selfish individual. Pets don’t care you are tired, and you know who else doesn’t? Your newborn (and toddler, and pre-teen, and teenager… you see where I’m going with this?).
But remember, before you’re a parent, use all the preparation you can get. Of course, like with every adult decision in life you need to do your due diligence. You’re reading about pregnancy, so I assume you are an adult and therefore will use your common sense while caring for all your babies, human and otherwise. I know you will!