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Gum Disease: Pregnancy

Pregnant women are particularly prone to periodontal disease as they go through the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy. Research has found that women with periodontal disease may be at higher risk of delivering pre-term or low birthweight infants. Scientists suspect periodontal disease, a bacterial infection, may cause biological fluids that normally induce labor to rapidly increase and induce premature labor.

The relationship between infection and adverse pregnancy outcomes has been well documented in both animal and human studies. In a recent study of periodontal infection in pregnant or postpartum women, those with periodontal disease were more likely to deliver a pre-term, low birthweight infant than women without periodontal disease. Medical professionals have been intrigued by these results and have urged additional research in this area.

Infants born before the 37th week of pregnancy account for 5 million neonatal intensive care unit days a year, at an annual cost of more than $5 billion. Additionally, 25% of pre-term, low birthweight births occur without known risk factors such as tobacco use, genetics, drug and alcohol use, quality of prenatal care, nutrition, and urinary tract infection. It is important to know the extent to which periodontal disease contributes to the unexplained risk of pre-term and low birthweight babies. Researchers are conducting several studies to further assess this association.