Tapeworm During Pregnancy - 6 Causes, 20 Symptoms And 5 Treatments You Should Be Aware Of

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Tapeworms are parasites that cause intestinal infections. A tapeworm infection during pregnancy may cause health complications for you and your baby. If you are experiencing symptoms such as excessive vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and vitamin B12 deficiency, you could have a tapeworm infection. Hence, seek medical attention and get screened to confirm the diagnosis. The treatment for tapeworm infection is based on the type of tapeworm that has infected the body.

Keep reading this post to learn more about tapeworm infection, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment in pregnant women.

What Is Tapeworm Infection?

Tapeworms are parasites that thrive in your gastrointestinal tract. A tapeworm infection affects your digestive system and leads to diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, anemia, and weight loss. As an expectant mom, a tapeworm infection may be more dangerous for you than others, so visit a doctor immediately if you suffer from the symptoms of a tapeworm infection (1).

Causes Of Tapeworm Infection During Pregnancy

A tapeworm infection occurs due to the five types of worms we list below. These worms commonly affect humans and are cosmopolitan in distribution.

  1. Diphyllobothrium, or the fish tapeworm, occurs when you consume undercooked freshwater fish.
  1. Taenia solium, or the pork tapeworm, occurs when you consume undercooked pork
  1. Taenia saginata, or the beef tapeworm, occurs when you consume undercooked beef that comprises larval cysts.
  1. Hymenolepic, also popular as the dwarf tapeworm, is a unique species of tapeworm that spreads from a human to human.
  1. Echinococcus comprises three species of tapeworm. Once you consume it, its larva moves throughout your body and leads to cysts in your organs.
  2. Poor hygiene practices too can cause tapeworm infection during pregnancy (2).

Symptoms Of Tapeworm During Pregnancy

The symptoms of a tapeworm infection are easily discernible. Some of the common symptoms may include:

  1. Abdominal pain. The area just above the stomach may pain a lot.
  2. Nausea
  3. Vomiting
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Presence of larvae or segments of the tapeworm in the stools
  6. General weakness
  7. Inflammation of intestine or enteritis
  8. Loss of weight
  9. Loss of appetite
  10. Anemia
  11. Dizziness
  12. Difficulty in sleeping
  13. Convulsions
  14. Malnutrition since tapeworm utilizes all essential nutrients
  15. Deficiency of vitamin B12, particularly due to Diphyllobothrium latum
  16. Fever
  17. Jaundice
  18. Allergic reaction to the tapeworm larvae
  19. Seizures
  20. Bacterial infection
  21. Intracranial pressure (3)

Diagnosing Tapeworm Infection During Pregnancy

Diagnosing a tapeworm infection involves different tests depending on the type of tapeworm infection. Here are some common diagnostic tests to detect tapeworm infection during pregnancy.

1. Blood tests:

Blood tests of an expecting mother aim to look for the presence of antibodies to tapeworm infection.

2. Imaging scans:

Imaging scans include an ultrasound scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computerized tomography (CT scan). If nothing prominent is seen in the blood tests, the doctor recommends imaging scans. Depending on the condition of the expecting mother, the doctor may recommend imaging scans.

3. Organ tests:

The doctor may recommend organ tests to check the functioning of the affected organs.

Treating Tapeworm Infection During Pregnancy

It is best to consult the doctor as soon as symptoms of a tapeworm infection surface. Depending on the type of tapeworm, the doctor will prescribe medicines. Treatment protocol depends on the type of worm infestation.

  1. For fish tapeworms, the doctor prescribes praziquantel and supplements of vitamin B that include folic acid.
  2. For pork tapeworm, the doctor recommends niclosamide or praziquantel. If the tapeworm infection results in cysts in the brain, the doctor is most likely to prescribe praziquantel, corticosteroids, and albendazole.
  3. For beef tapeworms, doctors mostly prescribe niclosamide or praziquantel.
  4. For dwarf tapeworm, doctor prescribes praziquantel or niclosamide to alleviate the symptoms of the infection
  5. Finally for Echinococcus tapeworms, the doctor would recommend albendazole, praziquantel, or even surgery if need be (4).

These medications paralyze the worm, and they finally pass out of the body during bowel movements. Cramps may be felt when they pass.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When can a pregnant woman take a dewormer?

Pregnant women are usually recommended to take a dewormer after the first trimester (5).

2. Can deworming cause miscarriage?

The drugs, Praziquantel and Niclosamide, used to treat tapeworm during pregnancy, belong to FDA pregnancy category B, which means that animal reproduction studies have not shown any risk to the fetus. Still, well-controlled studies in pregnant women are not adequate. Doctors prescribe them if the benefits of treatment outweigh its risks (6) (7).

A tapeworm infection during pregnancy is concerning but can also be treated. Fortunately, most symptoms of a tapeworm infection are easily noticeable. However, if you are doubtful that you have consumed improperly cooked meat or have been to unclean places, you may report your doctor to get tested for an infection. Early diagnosis could prevent most complications and ensure that the fetus receives a proper nutritional supply. Either way, maintain proper hygiene during pregnancy and note any uncommon changes in the body to your physician to be safe.

References:

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Dr. Prachi Benara

(MS)
Dr. Prachi Benara has over a decade of experience as an infertility specialist. Having done her graduation and postgraduation in India, Dr. Prachi trained in reproductive medicine and IVF in the UK. In addition to a one-year PG diploma, she worked as an observer in the Oxford University Hospitals and trained in IUI, ultrasound, and embryo transfer at the British... more

shreeja pillai

Shreeja holds a postgraduate degree in Chemistry and diploma in Drug Regulatory Affairs. Before joining MomJunction, she worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. As a writer, she aims at providing informative articles on health and pharma, especially related to... more

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