By: Beth Walsh for Diabetes1
Nearly one out of two women with gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) also has periodontal disease, according to findings from Tulane University researchers. In contrast, just over 10 percent of pregnant women without diabetes have periodontal disease. This study is the first to demonstrate a link between poor oral health and diabetes during pregnancy.
Screening for gestational diabetes is a routine part of prenatal care. But professional dental care during pregnancy is important also. However, the American Dental Association says that most pregnant women will not visit their dentist, even if they are having dental problems.
Elevated ovarian hormones during pregnancy are associated with increased gum inflammation. Your gums can become red, puffy or tender and may bleed when you brush. See your dentist during your pregnancy and be sure to mention if you've noticed these symptoms. Your dentist may recommend an additional cleaning during your second trimester or early third trimester to prevent problems.
The team of researchers analyzed health data from 256 pregnant women who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study III. Based on their analysis, the researchers recommend dental care during pregnancy as a way to prevent gestational diabetes. Periodontal disease is a chronic infection of the gums and mouth. Previous studies have shown that pregnant women with chronic periodontal disease during the second trimester are up to seven times more likely to give birth prematurely.
Gestational diabetes is an inability to process dietary sugars normally during pregnancy. Up to 14 percent of women develop gestational diabetes. Most deliver healthy babies but complications can develop, such as preeclampsia – which reduces blood supply to the baby, impacting the baby’s ability to grow and thrive. Women who have had gestational diabetes in one pregnancy are more likely to have it again in subsequent pregnancies as well as develop type 2 diabetes as they get older.
In the baby, gestational diabetes increases the risk of:
Excess growth. Extra glucose can cross the placenta, which triggers the baby's pancreas to make extra insulin. This can cause the baby to grow too large. Very large babies are more likely to have delivery complications or require birth via cesarean section.
Low blood sugar. Sometimes babies of mothers with gestational diabetes develop low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) shortly after birth because their own insulin production is high. Prompt feedings and sometimes an intravenous glucose solution can return the baby's blood sugar levels to normal.
Respiratory distress syndrome. If a baby is delivered early, respiratory distress syndrome – a condition that makes breathing difficult – is possible. Babies who have respiratory distress syndrome may need medical intervention to help with breathing until their lungs become stronger.
Type 2 diabetes later in life. Babies of mothers who have gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.