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Gum Disease May Increase Risk for Preeclampsia
February 6, 2013

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Women who have ever been treated for gum disease may be at higher risk for serious problems during pregnancy, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill did the study. It included information from 470 women who visited the UNC Women's Clinic for a pregnancy ultrasound. All of them later gave birth at the UNC Women's Hospital.

The average age of women in the study was 29. About 41% were white, 21% African American and 31% Hispanic. About three-fourths of the women had at least a high-school education. For 43% of the women, household income was less than $30,000 a year. About 45% had no insurance. The others had private insurance or Medicaid.

Ten percent of the women developed either high blood pressure during pregnancy or another problem called preeclampsia. In 6% of the women, these problems were severe.

Researchers compared women who had severe problems to women who had normal blood pressure and no preeclampsia during pregnancy. The researchers found four factors that increased risk of severe preeclampsia:

  • Women who had diabetes before they got pregnant had six times the risk of women who did not have diabetes.

  • Women who reported they ever had treatment for gum disease had three times the risk of women who never had gum disease.

  • Women with chronic high blood pressure (not just during pregnancy) had three times the risk of women with normal blood pressure.

  • Women on Medicaid had three times the risk of problems as women with private medical insurance did.

Researchers did not examine each woman or try to diagnose gum disease. They relied on the women's responses to questions. Women were asked whether they had ever been told they had gum disease or ever had treatment for it.

In this study, the risk of preeclampsia for women with previously treated gum disease was similar to the risk for women with chronic high blood pressure. Some experts have suggested that inflammation plays a role in causing preeclampsia. Gum disease causes infection and inflammation. Research has not established whether this is the cause of a higher risk of preeclampsia.

A 2008 review of published research found that pregnant women with gum disease had nearly twice the risk of preeclampsia.

The new study is the largest one to look at the links between pregnancy outcomes and self-reported oral health and use of dental services. It appears in the February issue of the Journal of Periodontology.

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