Can You Prevent Preterm Labor?
Compelling new research says it may be possible. Here, nine surprising ways to help get your baby to term - and to a healthier start in life
Dentist Visits Are Key
4. Visit the dentist. Many pregnant women think they should skip the dentist during pregnancy, but regular cleanings may help prevent preterm delivery. It's believed that the same chain of events initiated by a uterine infection can occur if you have a dental condition such as periodontal (gum) disease (when tissues begin to separate from the teeth, become infected, and even break down). Adding to the problem are hormone changes that occur during pregnancy which make women more susceptible to gingivitis -- a condition marked by swollen, red gums that are more sensitive to the negative effects of plaque -- which can lead to gum disease.
In one recent study of 366 women with gum disease, premature births were reduced by 84 percent in women who received a deep cleaning by a dentist above and below the gum line. "Most periodontal disease in young women is very simple to treat, and the results are dramatic," says Marjorie Jeffcoat, dean of the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, and the study's lead researcher.
Dr. Jeffcoat recommends that all women visit the dentist before or early in pregnancy to be checked for gum disease. If the condition is present, a deep cleaning by a dentist or hygienist, followed by regular dental care, can keep the problem under control. For women who don't have gum disease, dental checkups are still a smart idea, as is brushing and flossing after meals.