What to know

Infection with a number of parasites can lead to unique consequences for women.

Some examples are given below:

  • Infection with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in undercooked meat, cat feces, soil, and untreated water can lead to severe brain and eye disorders in a fetus when a pregnant woman becomes newly infected.
  • Trichomonas vaginalis, a sexually transmitted parasite that can be passed between partners, can lead to vaginal infection and increase a woman's susceptibility to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.
  • Pregnant women in malaria-endemic countries are at increased risk for adverse effects of malaria infection (for example, miscarriage, low birth weight).
  • Women with young children and children in day care are more likely to be exposed to parasites that cause diarrhea such as Giardia intestinalis and Cryptosporidium spp., ectoparasites such as lice (Pediculus spp.), and pinworms (Enterobius vermicularis) that cause anal itching.
  • Chagas disease is a vector-borne parasitic illness prevalent in areas of Central and South America, caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. The disease may lead to cardiac, gastrointestinal, and brain abnormalities. An infected mother can transmit this disease to the fetus (congenital transmission).
  • Hookworm infection and malaria can cause anemia. Women who have severe anemia more often deliver infants with low birth weight.
  • Pregnant women often need special consideration when being treated for parasitic diseases in order to avoid harm to the fetus, especially during the first trimester.