Bad Breath During Pregnancy

Why do I have bad breath during pregnancy?

A woman's body goes through many changes during pregnancy, many of which are positive. However, there are of course many which are less delightful, and bad breath during pregnancy can often be one of the more embarrassing side effects.

While the symptom, medically known as halitosis, is likely nothing to be worried about, it is worth understanding why it happens in the first place.

With the knowledge of what causes bad breath, steps can be taken to reduce its potency. Not only will this help return a pregnant woman's confidence, but it will also prevent more harmful dental hygiene issues, such as pregnancy gingivitis.

Causes of bad breath during pregnancy

Morning sickness and food intake

While it may seem obvious as soon as it is mentioned, morning sickness will inevitably cause bad breath, since stomach enzymes and acids, mixed with half or completely digested food, will linger in the mouth, unless thoroughly brushed and rinsed with mouthwash.

Unfortunately, morning sickness doesn't stick to its name and can occur throughout the day, making bad breath even more likely if a toothbrush isn't to hand. Packing sugar free chewing gum, or taking a travel toothbrush and toothpaste when out of the home, can help tackle the bad breath it causes.

Pregnant women will also be eating more than usual, and likely at irregular times, as the fetus demands food regardless of the hour. More food mean more opportunity for bits to be stuck in the teeth - a major cause of bad breath - and eating at abnormal hours may reduce the likelihood of brushing teeth soon after eating.

Hormonal changes

As with morning sickness, hormonal changes are often the most talked about side effects of pregnancy. This comes with good reason, as estrogen and progesterone, especially so, increase dramatically within weeks of egg fertilization. In fact, a woman will produce more estrogen during her one single pregnancy than throughout her entire non-pregnant life.

This has an impact on a pregnant woman's mouth, causing somewhat of a chain reaction. The hormones will cause an increase in the levels of protein within her saliva, which in turn causes bacteria to thrive. As a result, saliva will be thicker, reducing the levels of oxygen, which starts off the process of sulfur production. This is otherwise known as plaque and is the prime cause of halitosis during pregnancy.

Low calcium levels

Calcium can also be a factor in bad breath during pregnancy. A baby's development requires a high level of calcium, and its source is the mother's own body. If the pregnant mother doesn't take in enough calcium to supplement the increased demand, it can start to have an effect elsewhere in the body; including in the mouth.

Low levels of calcium will result in weaker teeth and teeth which are much more porous. This allows for plaque to remain on the teeth and invoke more damage than it would to teeth with healthy levels of calcium. As explained previously, plaque is a key factor in causing halitosis.

Tackling bad breath during pregnancy

While bad breath is inevitably going to be more difficult to handle while pregnant, due to the changes in the body and lifestyle, there is a way to prevent the side effect and stop it from becoming a more serious issue, such as pregnancy gingivitis (gum disease).

It is recommended that women who are pregnant and experiencing bad breath (halitosis) should contact their doctor to double check it is nothing more serious. In most cases, it won't be, and simple solutions such as brushing more often, using mouthwash and dental floss will suffice.

Visiting the dentist for a check-up, scale and polish are also recommended, as this will keep levels of plaque at bay. These solutions may not completely rid a pregnant woman of bad breath, so sugar-free mints or chewing gum are also worth carrying.

Bad breath after giving birth

The good news is that, once a pregnant woman has given birth, her hormones will soon drop back to normal. Morning sickness will also be gone, and calcium levels will likely return to a healthy amount, meaning the three main causes listed above will have disappeared.

If the symptoms do continue, however, it is worth going back to the doctor for a second opinion, and seeing if there are other underlying causes of halitosis.

Last Reviewed:
July 12, 2017
Last Updated:
October 24, 2017
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