Mother's mouth bacteria linked to stillbirth

February 1, 2010

Gum disease in a mother during pregnancy may raise risk for death of her fetus, according to new research from the Department of Periodontics at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU).

Gum disease in a mother during pregnancy may raise risk for death of her fetus, according to new research from the Department of Periodontics at Case Western Reserve University.

This is the first such documented link between Fusobacterium nucleatum in the mother’s mouth and stillbirth.

The research was initiated by the case of a 35-year-old woman who experienced bleeding gums during pregnancy and who gave birth to a stillborn child. Postmortem samples taken from the baby revealed F nucleatum in the lungs and stomach of the stillborn child. Death was caused by septic infection and inflammation as a result of the bacteria.

Bleeding gums occurs in approximately 75% of pregnancies as a result of hormonal changes. Researchers suggest that women considering pregnancy seek dental care prior to becoming pregnant, that they maintain good oral health during pregnancy, and that they immediately report bleeding gums to their physicians.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research supported the study.

Han YW, Fardini Y, Chen C, et al. Obstet Gynecol. 2010; 115(2, pt. 2): 442-445.