In addition to the myriad of changes in a woman's body during pregnancy, some women discover after becoming pregnant that their gums begin to bleed when brushing. Is this something to worry about? What causes it? And how can it be treated?
Why Does Pregnancy Cause Bleeding Gums?
Blame it on the hormones. Estrogen and progesterone normally secreted during pregnancy cause mucus membranes to swell, making areas like your mouth more easily irritated and therefore more likely to bleed. As if that weren't enough, the hormones also leave your mouth more susceptible to bacteria and plaque. Up to 75% of pregnant mothers get pregnancy gingivitis caused by increased inflammation that may also result in bleeding. To help with this, try rinsing with a solution of 1 teaspoon of salt in a cup of water. And make dental visits a regular part of your pregnancy care.
A few women (around 5% of pregnancies) develop what's called a pyogenic granuloma, commonly referred to as 'pregnancy tumors' in the mouth. It's not as bad as it sounds, though, as this is not a tumor but rather a granuloma (a growth containing immune cells). Once again, it's the hormone changes a woman undergoes - particularly during her second and third trimesters - that may cause such growths. Pregnancy tumors are usually filled with blood vessels and can bleed easily when irritated (such as with brushing).
What can you do if you develop one? Many of these growths will go away on their own. But if it's serious enough to cause bleeding, discomfort or difficulty with chewing, your doctor can remove it with a simple surgical procedure. Be aware, though, that it may return.
Keep Up With Dental Care
The best way to treat and prevent gum and oral health issues during pregnancy is to keep a regular routine of dental hygiene and care. Brush gently and floss daily, using a mouthwash rinse to help remove more bacteria. And don't avoid the dentist. Let him or her know you're pregnant (and avoid x-rays if you wish), but be sure to go in for routine cleanings and a regular exam. Local anesthetics are safe for the baby, and addressing dental health issues is vital to the health of both mother and child. Untreated pregnancy gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which has shown some correlation with pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia or premature babies, and may transmit bacteria to newborns via normal maternal acts like sharing spoons or licking pacifiers. So get your teeth treated for both your sakes.