Caring for pets when you’re pregnant
Many families think of their pets as family. Pets can bring much fun and joy to a home. But when you’re pregnant, not all pets are OK to be around. Pregnant women have to be careful about the kinds of animals they keep in their home and know how to handle and care for them safely.
Are dogs safe pets to have when you’re pregnant?
For the most part, there's no reason your dog can't be part of the family when you're pregnant. But take these steps to help keep yourself safe during pregnancy:
- Don’t let your dog jump up on your belly.
- If your dog has bad habits, like biting or jumping, train him to stop doing these things before you have your baby.
- Make sure your dog is up-to-date with vaccinations. Do this before your baby is born.
- If you and your dog are especially close, ask your partner or a family member to spend more time with him. Because your baby will take much of your time and attention, having your dog develop relationships with others can help prepare him for changes to come once your baby is home.
Are cats safe pets to have when you’re pregnant?
Pregnant women need to be careful of toxoplasmosis when handling their cat. This is an infection often carried by cats that’s caused by a parasite. Cats pass this parasite in their feces (poop), and you can get it by cleaning kitty litter or touching dirt, like garden soil, where cats may have been. You also can get toxoplasmosis from eating undercooked meat, especially pork, lamb or deer meat.
If you have a cat, use these tips to help keep you safe from toxoplasmosis:
- Ask a family member who isn't pregnant to clean out the litter box every day.
- Keep your cat inside.
- Stay away from stray cats.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching cat poop or after gardening.
- If you have a sandbox, cover it to stop cats from using it as a litter.
- Don’t feed your cat undercooked meat.
Are hamsters, guinea pigs and mice safe pets to have when you’re pregnant?
Many peoples have rodents, including mice, hamsters and guinea pigs, as pets. If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, be very careful with these animals. They may carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (also called LCMV) that can be harmful to you and your baby. LCMV can cause severe birth defects and miscarriage.
You can get LCMV:
- From a bite from an infected animal
- By touching an infected animal’s urine, blood, saliva, droppings or nesting materials
- By breathing in dust or droplets when sweeping up droppings or cleaning out a cage
Tell your health care provider if you have signs and symptoms of LCMV. These include:
- Fatigue (being very tired)
- Muscle aches or a stiff neck
- Nausea and vomiting
- Not being hungry
The house mouse (a wild mouse found near and in homes) is the main source of the LCMV. Pets like hamsters and guinea pigs can get infected with LCMV from being in contact with wild mice at a breeder, in a pet store or even in your home.
Use these tips to help keep you safe from LCMV when you’re pregnant:
- Keep pet rodents in a separate part of your home.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after touching pet rodents.
- Ask other family members to care for the pet and clean its cage. Ask them to clean the cage in a well-ventilated area or outside. Keep cages clean and remove any dirty bedding.
- Keep pet rodents away from your face.
- Avoid contact with wild rodents.
- If your home has wild rats or mice, use pest control (such as traps or a professional pest control company) to get rid of them. Talk to your health care provider before using any pest control chemicals in your home.
If you have children, especially under the age of 5:
- Make sure an adult watches them closely when they’re around or playing with pet rodents.
- Don’t let them kiss pet rodents or hold them close to their face.
- Make sure they wash their hands with soap and water after touching pet rodents.
Are reptiles and exotic pets safe to have during pregnancy?
Some families have reptiles, like lizards, snakes and turtles, for pets. Some of these animals can carry germs that make people sick. One illness they carry is salmonellosis (also called salmonella infection).
Most salmonella infections come from food sources, such as poultry, meat and eggs. But salmonella infections can be linked to reptiles. Even if a pet reptile has a negative test for salmonella, it doesn't mean the animal is not infected. It may mean that the animal was just not “shedding salmonella” on the day it was tested.
Pregnant women and children younger than age 5 are at increased risk of getting salmonella infection. If you’re pregnant, remove any pet reptile from your home before your baby is born.
For more information
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Last reviewed April 2014
Frequently Asked Questions
Is air travel safe during pregnancy?
If your pregnancy is healthy, it’s usually safe to travel by plane. Follow these tips when traveling by air:
- Ask your airline if they have a cut-off time for traveling during pregnancy. You can fly on most airlines up to 36 weeks of pregnancy. But if you’re flying out of the country, the cut-off time may be earlier.
- If you’ve had morning sickness during pregnancy, ask your provider if you can take medicine to help with nausea.
- Book an aisle seat so you don't have to climb over other passengers when you need to get up to use the restroom or walk around. Try sitting towards the front of the plane where the ride feels smoother.
- Drink plenty of water. Don’t drink carbonated drinks, such as soda. And don’t eat foods, such as beans, that may cause gas.Gas in your belly can expand at high altitudes and make you feel uncomfortable.
- Fasten your seat belt when you’re in your seat. This can help keep you from getting hurt in case of turbulence. Turbulence happens when the air around a flying plane causes a bumpy ride.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Flex your ankles during the flight, and take a walk when it's safe to leave your seat. Doing these things can help your blood flow and lower your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot inside a vein. Sitting for long stretches of time during any kind of travel raises your chances of having DVT. Ask your health care provider if you should wear support stockings during your flight. They may help prevent DVT. But if you have diabetes or problems with blood circulation, you probably shouldn’t wear them.
- Tell the flight attendant if you feel sick or very uncomfortable during your flight. Contact your health care provider as soon as you can.
Is it safe to get or have a tattoo during pregnancy?
It's best to wait until after having your baby to get one. Here's why: Hepatitis B, a dangerous liver infection, and HIV/AIDS are two of many diseases that can be passed along through bodily fluids. This means you can catch these diseases if you get a tattoo from someone who uses a dirty needle. And you can pass these diseases along to your baby during pregnancy.
We don't know how tattoo dyes and inks affect a developing baby. Small amounts of chemicals that might be harmless to an adult can have a much bigger impact on a growing baby.
Most healthcare providers will give an epidural to a woman with a tattoo on her lower back. But they may decide not to if the tattoo is recent and fresh. If you have a tattoo on your back and are considering getting an epidural for pain relief during childbirth, find out what the hospital's policy is before you're admitted.
Is it safe to get spa treatments during pregnancy?
Some spa treatments are safe. Others may be more painful than usual. And some - like mud baths - are a bad idea while you're pregnant.
Any spa treatments that raise your body temperature (like mud baths, hot wax and seaweed wraps) are almost always unsafe during pregnancy. Steam rooms, hot tubs, and saunas also raise your body temperature. They can make you dehydrated and overheated. This can be dangerous for you and your baby. Avoid these treatments while you're pregnant.
Be careful with skin treatments like facials and body scrubs. During pregnancy, your skin changes a lot and may be extra sensitive. Before you cover your whole body with a product, test it on a small area of skin to be sure it doesn't irritate.
Getting your eyebrows done and having your bikini line waxed are usually safe during pregnancy, but they may feel more painful to your sensitive skin.