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Bleeding gums are extremely common in pregnant women. In this article why they occur, how they can be prevented, and whether they are associated with an increased risk of early labor. Read on.

The body undergoes a whole host of changes during pregnancy as it prepares for childbirth. One of the smaller things that happen is an increase in the proliferation of small blood vessels around the body. The reason behind this has to do with the hormonal changes that are taking place and an effort to ensure better blood supply and nutrition to all parts of the body [1].

The increased blood flow, as well as the hormonal changes, can cause the gums to swell up and is referred to as pregnancy gingivitis [2]. It is also the reason why so many pregnant women seek bleeding gums treatment during pregnancy.

Pregnancy Gingivitis: Why Does It Occur?

The occurrence of pregnancy gingivitis is most common during the second trimester of the pregnancy. Women may notice that their gums appear to be swollen, bleed easily during brushing, and even start to cover portions of their teeth. In some cases, the bleeding can occur even during eating or just spontaneously during the night [3].

There is something very important that must be understood about pregnancy gingivitis. While the hormonal changes and proliferation of blood vessels make the gum sensitive to inflammation, nothing would happen if there is no plaque present on the teeth [4].

The root cause behind the occurrence of gingivitis remains the same: accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth.

It is recommended that women get an oral hygiene check-up done before planning pregnancy and get a scaling done beforehand. If the pregnancy was unplanned or the scaling could not be done for any other reason, the second trimester is the only time when scaling is currently recommended.

The first trimester is the time when the organs are being formed in the fetus while the risk of early labor is maximum during the third trimester. The bacteria released into the bloodstream during scaling can be responsible for triggering early labor in rare cases [5].

Can Pregnancy Gingivitis Cause Early Labor?

Gingivitis is nothing but inflammation of the gums. When it progresses and starts to cause the destruction of structures around the teeth, the condition is called periodontitis. There have been several studies that have studied the link between gum disease and early labor.

While there has been no direct causal link that has been identified, gum disease is now considered a definite risk factor for the occurrence of early labor [6].

The relationship between gum disease and early labor may sound counter-intuitive but both conditions are bound together by a common underlying mechanism. Inflammation. The bacteria which are responsible for causing gum disease release a large number of bacterial products into the bloodstream.

These bacterial products cause the release of inflammatory markers which have been directly associated with early labor. It has also been theorized that the bacteria may become loose from the teeth, travel into the bloodstream, and colonize the area around the developing fetus where it will directly release these inflammation-causing products [7].  

Enough scientific evidence has been collected to show that an association between gum disease and early labor definitely exists.

How Can Pregnancy Gingivitis Be Prevented?

Pregnancy gingivitis is not different from regular gingivitis. As mentioned earlier, the cause is still the accumulation of plaque. If you have been regular with your scaling appointments and following your oral hygiene regimen properly then there is nothing to worry about.

Bleeding gums treatment or a regular scaling is all that is required to prevent pregnancy gingivitis [8]. Since the gums are so sensitive during pregnancy, the small amount of plaque which would have caused no reaction normally will end up causing bleeding from the gums. It is better to take an opinion from the dentist if that is the case.

Scaling can be performed safely during the second trimester. If the bleeding is mild and happens during the third trimester then the dentist may advise doing nothing at all. The bleeding gums may resolve on their own after childbirth as the hormones start to return to their normal levels [9].

If the checkup at the dentist reveals that the gum disease has progressed from gingivitis to periodontitis then gum treatment must be taken after the childbirth has taken place. The protocol for the treatment of mild periodontitis remains the same as gingivitis, although, if the oral hygiene is really poor then a scaling can be done even in the third trimester.

In such a case, the risk of early labor is more by not doing the scaling than by actually performing the procedure.


Pregnancy gingivitis is a very common condition that can sometimes have serious side effects like causing early labor [10]. Luckily, the prevention and treatment of this condition are very straightforward. Some people erroneously assume that the cause of bleeding from their gums has to do with the pregnancy. Remember, pregnancy creates conditions that shine a harsher light on your oral hygiene methods but the root cause remains the same.


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