Bleeding Gums During Pregnancy: Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Gingivitis

Many women will notice changes in their gums while pregnant.  This common problem is termed ‘pregnancy gingivitis’.   The symptoms of this include bleeding gums during pregnancy.  You may notice your gums:

  • Appear redder.
  • Become swollen.
  • Bleed easily when brushing.

These symptoms may be severe in some pregnant women. The problem of bleeding gums during pregnancy is hormonal in origin. Here increased hormone levels exacerbate the response of the gums to any plaque bacteria.  The condition can begin early in pregnancy, around the second month.

It often worsens towards the end of pregnancy, but the gums should recover quickly after the baby is born. As is the case with ‘normal’ gingivitis, it is plaque bacteria which causes the reaction in the gums.  But there is an increased reaction to the plaque in pregnancy gingivitis.

"An image of bleeding gums during pregnancy with a dental probe"

Gums bleeding easily when touched with a dental probe. A common occurrence during pregnancy.


Bleeding Gums During Pregnancy: Prevention

Bleeding gums can be prevented.  The key aim is a high level of oral hygiene.  This is necessary in order to limit plaque build-up and should include:

It is still important to visit the dentist for regular check-ups during pregnancy.  Routine cleanings are often very effective at treating bleeding gums during pregnancy.  If you have more severe gum problems that require deep cleaning, this may be best scheduled to be done during the second trimester of pregnancy.


Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

Periodontal disease is a disease that adversely affects the health of the gums. A lot of research has been done on the effects of periodontal disease on other medical conditions. One of the links that research has found is that pregnant women who have periodontal disease may have a higher risk of having a baby prematurely and/or a baby with a low birth weight. Results of some studies have found:

  • About one in five premature births in the USA could be linked to severe periodontal problems in the mother.
  • Mothers who delivered their babies early and who had low-weight babies were more likely to have periodontal problems.
  • The risk of a mother with severe periodontal disease having premature labor and/or a low-weight baby may be as high as seven times higher than women without gum disease.
  • Some studies have noted a link between gum disease and pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a dangerous condition that can occur during pregnancy, causing a severe rise in blood pressure.

However it is important to note that research is still at a relatively early stage and that not all studies have found these links to be strong.

Pregnancy and gum disease rates

Why Might Gum Disease Affect Your Baby?

The answer may lie in the fact that gum disease can put quite a strain on your body’s defence system. This can use up a lot of your system’s energy and also result in a lot of natural chemicals in your bloodstream that may bring on early labor.

Studies into gum disease in pregnancy show that treatment in the second trimester is safe for mother and baby. Results of studies into whether treatment at that stage will have a positive benefit in terms of reducing the risks of gum disease to mother and baby are not clear.

See next page for advice on another gum problem that can occur: pregnancy ‘tumor’. Alternatively return here to the main page on dental care while pregnant.

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