Pregnant women for a long time have known that risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and drug use contribute to mothers having babies that are born prematurely or at a low birth weight. Pre-term births are more likely to result in serious medical conditions for the child, including intraventricular hemorrhage (bleeding of the brain), cerebral palsy, retardation or at worst, death. Research has now revealed a new risk factor – periodontal disease. Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small.
More research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease may affect pregnancy outcomes. It appears that periodontal disease triggers increased levels of biological chemicals called prostaglandins that induce labor. Furthermore, data suggests that women whose periodontal condition worsens during pregnancy have an even higher risk of having a premature baby. All infections are cause for concern among pregnant women because they pose a risk to the health of the baby. It is recommended that women considering pregnancy have a periodontal evaluation.