Make sure you're taking care of your teeth and gums. The hormone progesterone causes gum tissue to soften and it's therefore more likely to bleed when brushed and to become infected. Unfortunately, there is a link between gum disease and premature birth. The bacteria caused by periodontal disease release toxins into the mother's bloodstream, which reach the placenta and can affect the baby's growth. The infection can also lead to the production of inflammatory chemicals that can cause the cervix to dilate and trigger contractions.
To keep your mouth healthy during your pregnancy, brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss your teeth every day. Be sure to see your dentist regularly for cleanings as recommended. If you need antibiotics to treat an infection, make sure to remind your dentist you are pregnant so that medications that are safe in pregnancy are prescribed.
If your dentist needs to take X-rays of your mouth, he or she will protect your baby by covering your abdomen with a lead apron.
A US study found that, on average, those with one child were missing two or three teeth, and those with four or more children were missing between four and eight teeth.
So the old wives' tale that "You will lose a tooth for every child" could have some basis in truth. It might be because of the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy that can cause gum disease.
In pregnancy, the layer of muscle in the vagina thickens, and cells lining the vagina multiply in response to an increase in the pregnancy hormone estrogen. These changes prepare the vagina for childbirth. As a side effect, the extra cells mean that there is an increase in vaginal discharge, known as leucorrhea.
If you feel sore or itchy in the vaginal area and the discharge is anything other than cream or white, or smells, your doctor will need to take a swab to rule out infection.
Some infections, such as yeast, cause an abnormal discharge. They are common in pregnancy and are easily treated. Even if you've self-treated yeast infections before, call your doctor for advice this time. She'll likely recommend medication that's applied vaginally, but if she determines that you have bacterial vaginosis, oral medication may be required.
Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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