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Mom's Gingivitis Leads to Baby's Death

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Pregnant women with bleeding gums should see a dentist to treat their gingivitis.

pregnant woman belly

How scary! There is now proof that gingivitis in pregnant women can be deadly ... for your baby.

Scientists from Case Western University have linked bacteria from a mother's gums to an infection in a baby that was full-term but stillborn, reports Obstetrics and Gynecology.

A 35-year-old California woman's gums bled heavily during her pregnancy, and her baby was stillborn. Plaque samples from the woman's teeth were found to be positive for the same strain of the oral bacteria found in the dead baby's stomach and lungs.

Gingivitis can increase the risk of preterm birth anywhere from twice to seven times, researchers say.

OB/GYN and momlogic expert Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz says: "This is such a tragedy. Term stillbirth is still pretty rare -- about 2/1,000 live births -- with poor or no prenatal care being the largest risk factor. Just over 50% of these deaths are unexplained, meaning we just don't know what caused the demise, or we cannot prove it. So the fact that this woman was able to sleuth enough to find a cause, and that this was preventable, makes it even sadder. To put it into its proper perspective, this sad story is a case report -- in other words, the first documented situation of its kind. But it does make you wonder how many other stillbirths whose cause was never discovered might be linked to dental complications."

She continues: "It is true that between 50-75% of pregnant women may experience the more benign forms of pregnancy gingivitis -- tender, swollen, bleeding gums. The risks of preterm labor and resulting prematurity associated with dental problems in pregnancy are well-documented, but it turns out that hormones and increased fluid levels are not the only culprits. Our overall inattention to our oral health is at fault, and if we'd just do what the dentists (and our moms) have begged us to for ages, most of us could avoid this nuisance, or worse!"

Dr. Suzanne has a confession: "I must admit that I got four cavities during my first pregnancy -- that's right, your good old Dr. Suzanne also committed the crime of falling WAY behind in her oral hygiene (but I was an OB/GYN resident at the time) ... so, please brush, floss, and irrigate daily BEFORE and after conceiving. See the dentist REGULARLY before and during pregnancy! Just do it!"

next: How a Kid with Special Needs Affects Your Marriage
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