Pregnant women are particularly prone to periodontal (gum) disease due to hormonal changes associated with pregnancy. Research has found that women with periodontal disease may be at higher risk for delivering pre-term, low birth weight (PLBW) infants. What effects can periodontal disease have on my pregnancy?
If you are pregnant, the hormonal changes you are undergoing will make you particularly prone to periodontal disease. And, according to research findings, if you have periodontal disease and you are pregnant, you may be at higher risk of delivering a pre-term low-birth-weight infant, that is, an infant born before the 37th week of pregnancy.
For several years, the link between infection—particularly genitourinary tract infection—and the delivery of pre-term low-birth-weight infants has been the subject of research. Based on the findings of this research, it appears that genitourinary tract infection causes a rapid increase in the levels of biological fluids that normally induce labor. This rapid increase leads to premature delivery. Researchers suspect that periodontal disease, which is also a bacterial infection, could trigger a similar increase in these fluid levels, thereby inducing premature labor. Scientists have documented an association between infection, especially genitourinary tract infection, and adverse outcomes of pregnancy in both animal and human studies. A recent study of periodontal infection in pregnant and postpartum women found that the likelihood of delivering a pre-term low-birth-weight infant was greater in women with periodontal disease than in those without periodontal disease. These intriguing results have prompted medical professionals to urge that additional investigations be done in this area. No known risk factor—such as tobacco use, genetics, drug and alcohol use, level of prenatal care, nutrition and urinary tract infection—is identified for 25% of deliveries of pre-term low-birth-weight infants. It is important to know how much periodontal disease contributes to the unexplained risk of delivery of pre-term low-birth-weight infants. Several studies are underway to assess this link. Dr. Zablotsky can provide you with updated findings in all these areas as they may affect you. He wants you to be aware of the general health risks linked to your periodontal disease.
What should I do?
Obviously, if you are pregnant, it is important that you provide us with this information at your next appointment. Following a careful assessment of your status, we will discuss how best to control any problems you are experiencing.
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