Expert Advice

Pets, Pregnancy, and Postpartum Depression

Ah, pets! We love to live with them. During pregnancy, caring for our pets may need special care. During postpartum and possible depression, our pets can be the anchor that helps us keep moving through the day.

Pets and PPD

A beloved pet’s nuzzle or purr or antics can lift us out of our doldrums, if only for a minute.

But when you’re dealing with Postpartum Depression, that one minute could be what shifts you into action instead of lying in bed all day.

Dogs, especially, help lower depressive symptoms, stress, and anxiety, and get us up and moving to increase exercise and a sense of play.

Research showed that just looking into your dog’s eyes increases that famous bonding hormone, oxytocin. And snuggling can reduce your blood pressure.

Because, they don’t take your mood personally! They just love you.

Even when PPD has you crying from morn to night, walking the dog can feel like the one productive thing in that day.

And it gets you out of the house so you feel less isolated.

Routine feeding and exercising your pet can feel like another chore, but it can also stabilize a sense of reality and groundedness.

Pets can help with PPD, and children learn empathy from caring for them

Which Pet, Which Protection?

 Dogs   

Canine friends are not a threat to your growing baby. But their behavior can be.

As soon as you know you are pregnant, begin re-training a dog that jumps on you, especially if it naturally lands on your belly.

When baby comes, you won’t have as much time to spend with your dog—at least for a few weeks. March of Dimes suggests

If you and your dog are especially close, ask your partner or a family member to spend more time with her/him.

But don’t wait until baby is here—by about 6 months, begin encouraging more quality time between your partner and pet so they have their own strong bond. Let your partner take over feeding, brushing, and walks.

Having this in place means one less worry for you when you go into labor, need tons of sleep once you’re back home, and have a mountain of new things to do and think about with your new munchkin.

Cats   

Felines friends are another issue because they can affect your growing fetus through a parasite carried in cat feces.

The parasite causes toxoplasmosis, an infection that causes flu-like symptoms, and worse—although some people don’t exhibit any symptoms. You’ll likely be tested for this, but if not, ask your care provider.

When you’re pregnant or your baby is very new, a weakened immune system can’t fight the infection as it normally would, and can result in severe problems in newborns. The risk to your baby is especially high if you get toxoplasmosis in your third trimester.

Here’s how to prevent danger and still enjoy cuddles with kitty:

  • Avoid changing the litter box – preferably, someone else would do that daily But if you have to do it, wear protective gloves and wash your hands immediately after finishing.  Also, cleaning the litter box daily helps reduce infection risk because the parasite only becomes active 1-5 days after being deposited.
  • Cover the sandbox – cats see it as the world’s most comfy litter box! So keep a lid or screen over it to foil your feline’s fun. And follow litter box guidelines if you have to clean out the sandbox.
  • Garden with gloves – cats prefer somewhere moist and soft to ‘do their business’. And you cannot know all the time if there’s cat feces in the garden. So wear protective gloves and clothing and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
  • Speaking of gardens and fresh food… fruits and veggies could have been in touch with infected soil, but you cannot know that. Wash, peel, or cook fresh produce.
  • Avoid feeding raw meat – it can carry toxoplasmosis parasite. Instead, feed your cat commercially prepared foods.
  • Don’t get a new kitten – kittens shed far more parasites in their feces than mature cats. Wait until baby is at least 6 months old before rescuing that adorable kitten or taking in a stray.

 The CDC has extensive info and guidelines for protecting yourself and your baby.

Rodents   

Rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice also present a risk to pregnant women and developing fetuses.

They can carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV) that causes severe birth defects and miscarriage.

Because you can get the virus from something as simple as breathing the dust in the cage, avoid these pets and their maintenance.

If you are the only one who can take care of them, wear protective clothing (mask, gloves) and wash thoroughly afterward.

Contact your care provider if you develop any of these symptoms.

Avoid putting these animals up to your face or kissing them—and don’t let your young children do it, either. ALWAYS wash afterward.

Reptiles & Amphibians   

Snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, toads, and salamanders should be avoided whenever possible during pregnancy.

We’re used to hearing about the salmonella from undercooked chicken, but the same bacteria is carried by reptiles and amphibians.

Who’s at most at risk? Infants, children under 5 years old, people with weakened immune systems.

The simple prevention? Washing. As with other animals, washing after handling reptiles/amphibians (and cleaning their tanks) is crucial.

    Pregnancy + pets = planning.

You may not want to give up your family pet because a new baby is coming.

Including pet care arrangements in your birth plan means one less worry for you—and one more benefit for bowser.

 

To learn more about family & new babies, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.

This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.

Published: May 24, 2017 | Reviewed by: The Best Ever Baby Expert Team | Last reviewed: May, 2017

Sabriga TurgonPets, Pregnancy, and Postpartum Depression

Related Posts