What are pinworms and threadworms? How can they affect pregnancy?
Pinworms refers to a parasite called Enterobius vermicularis. They are roundworms, or nematodes, and are also known as threadworms or seatworms. Pinworms and threadworms may be the same thing.
But threadworms may also refer to another parasite called Strongyloides stercoralis. Ask your doctor whether you have Strongyloides or just Enterobius. Strongyloides is diagnosed with a blood test. Enterobius diagnosis employs a “tape test,” in which you collect a sample with a piece of cellophane tape. The tape is then examined under a microscope for signs of the worms and their eggs.
Strongyloides infection is different from pinworms. You’ll need to talk with your obstetrician about the implications and treatment if you’re infected with Strongyloides. I’d guess that you only have Enterobius, which is much more common in the United States.
As creepy as it may feel to have “worms,” pinworms are pretty harmless in nearly all cases. They’re much more prevalent among children, but they spread easily among families and those in close contact with young children.
Pinworms live much of their life cycle in human intestines. When the host is asleep, the female worms come out through the anus and lay their eggs. Sometimes the worms cause itching in the anal area. The child scratches, the eggs get on his or her fingers and then are spread to objects, people, clothing, linens, etc., where they may live for up to three weeks. People may get infected when they unknowingly get the eggs on their hands and transfer them to their mouths.
Many doctors don’t recommend treating pinworms at all, because they rarely cause any problems besides itching. Treatment usually involves two to three doses of medicine over a period of four to six weeks. The entire family is treated. Any infected areas, objects and clothing must be cleaned and the family must learn the appropriate hygiene to prevent re-infection.
Depending on your circumstances, your obstetrician may not advise treatment. The risks of the worms harming the fetus are likely smaller than the risks of treatment. You and your doctor will have to do a risks-vs.-benefits analysis before you make a decision.