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Gum Disease Puts Some Pregnancies at Risk
January 22, 2014

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Having gum disease during pregnancy may put some women at risk for pre-eclampsia, though researchers are not clear why.

A study from India involved 504 women who were pregnant with their first child. They were examined by a dentist between the 14th and 18th weeks of their pregnancies. Researchers also collected blood samples. These were tested for levels of several immune-system proteins.

Compared with women who had healthy gums, women with periodontal (gum) disease had higher levels of two immune-system proteins:

  • Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha)
  • Interleukin-4 (IL-4)

TNF-alpha helps the body to fight off bacteria, as well as some viruses and fungal infections. IL-4 is another key player in the immune system.

Researchers kept track of the women until after they gave birth. Among those with gum disease, women with lower levels of TNF-alpha were more likely to be diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. This is a complication of pregnancy. Symptoms include high blood pressure and high protein levels in urine. Mild cases of pre-eclampsia can be handled at home, but some women need hospital care.

Researchers did not suggest why lower levels of TNF-alpha would be linked with an increased risk of pre-eclampsia.

Results from other studies show that gum disease increases a pregnant woman's risk of pre-eclampsia. A 2011 study found a greater risk of pre-eclampsia for women with gum disease. However, those researchers found similar levels of TNF-alpha in women with and without gum disease.

The Indian study appears in the January issue of the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.

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