By Meirav Janus
Premature birth, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a birth that takes place prior to the start of the 37th week of pregnancy, while an average healthy pregnancy is usually around 40 weeks.Preterm labor is a serious medical condition that can threaten both the mother and the baby. The earlier the baby is born, the more severe the effects of this can be. In underdeveloped countries, preterm birth is more common due to the lack of available resources and medical care.
In Malawi, where preterm birth is reportedly the highest globally, a study was conducted to see if chewing sugar-free gum daily negatively correlated with preterm births. The study in Malawi was inspired by recent research that concluded that poor oral hygiene had a negative effect on birth. In the study, the pregnant women were told to chew sugar-free gum, which contains xylitol, a chemical that is known to improve oral health. Surprisingly enough, there was a correlation between what like two seemingly unrelated parts of the body. Of the 4,349 pregnant women that were a part of the study, 549 of them had preterm labor (12.6%). Although that is still a lot of preterm births, that is a 24% reduction compared to the control group (18.1%) who did not receive the gum.
Periodontal diseases affect preterm birth by causing gum inflammation which may lead to bacteria entering the bloodstream, eventually leading into the placenta. The placenta, the fetus’s life support, is where the baby receives all their nutrients whether good or bad. Any harmful bacteria that enter the placenta automatically enter the baby’s bloodstream as well, which can lead to defects and harmful effects on the baby. This condition, according to the Cleveland Clinic, is called chorioamnionitis. Choriomamniotis often causes the baby to be delivered as soon as possible due to causing greater health risks to the mother. In America, chorioamnionitis only occurs in 2% of births. The risks from not delivering the baby include sepsis and blood clots.
Maintaining good oral hygiene is not only important for having a nice smile but can also have a serious benefit on the health of the baby and mother during pregnancy. Fortunately, chewing sugar-free gum may be an easy way to ensure that not only are your teeth healthy but that your future child is healthy and that you are able to have a full-term pregnancy.