Inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune response to disease and pathogens, and while it can play a beneficial role in helping the body ward off disease, it can also have negative effects on health and wellness, including pregnancy. Recent studies have shown inflammation can be especially harmful to expectant moms. Understanding chronic inflammation and how it can affect pregnancy can play an important role in preventing pregnancy complications and improving the health of an unborn baby.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural immune response that causes a host of changes in the body. These changes are intended to destroy invading pathogens like bacteria and viruses as well as other foreign substances that are recognized (sometimes incorrectly) as invaders.
Most of us are familiar with the visible signs of inflammation, like red or swollen tissues, tenderness and increased warmth that occur in the skin following an injury or infection. But that’s just part of the inflammatory process. Chronic inflammation involves a far more complex cascade of events that takes place inside the body. Lots of factors can contribute to chronic inflammation, including stress, sleep patterns, and even diet and exercise. One of the biggest causes of chronic inflammation is an underlying infection, including undiagnosed and untreated periodontal disease (or gum disease).
Periodontal Disease and Inflammation
Periodontal disease is caused when harmful bacteria like Porphyromonas gingivalis, Fusobacterium nucleatum and Actinomyces actinomycetecomitans grow around the teeth and the tooth roots. In the oral cavity, these bacteria trigger an immune system response that in turn can cause redness, swelling and soreness in the gums. Over time, tiny ulcers or sores form in the gums. These small ulcers provide tiny openings that enable the bacteria to enter the bloodstream where they’re free to travel throughout the body, causing a much broader inflammatory response.
Inflammation and Pregnancy
Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria are able to spread to many different organs, including the uterus. The uterus and the amniotic fluid it contains protect the health of the baby by providing a sterile environment designed to prevent infection and disease as the baby develops. As the bacteria invade the uterus, the body’s immune responses are triggered. Our immune response is programmed to attack all infected areas. Therefore, when the uterus becomes contaminated by oral pathogens (gum bacteria), the body turns on chronic inflammation response to rid the infection, which can lead to an attack on the fetus. In fact, while the bacteria themselves can be harmful to the developing baby, the mother’s own immune response is even more damaging to the fetus, making it no longer viable for life and causing spontaneous miscarriage.
Lower Your Risks for Pregnancy Complications
Periodontal disease often causes few signs in its very early stages, and it’s possible to have the disease and to be hosting large populations of harmful bacteria without even knowing it. Oral DNA testing uses breakthrough technology to identify the pathogens that cause gum disease using a small sample of your saliva. It can also look for specific genetic markers to determine if you’re at greater risk for developing periodontal disease. The test is completely painless, and the results typically are ready within a week.
Once the testing is complete, a custom treatment plan can be developed based on the patient’s specific and unique profile to help eradicate harmful bacteria and prevent the dangerous inflammatory responses associated with pregnancy complications, so both the baby and the mother can enjoy better health.
If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, having an oral DNA test is a simple way to prevent complications and help ensure your developing baby is as healthy as possible. To find out more about oral DNA testing or to schedule your own test, call our office at 212-564-6686 today.