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Why You’re More Likely To Get Canker Sores While Pregnant


A woman holding a light therapy device for canker sores and to help with pregnancy


It’s no secret that your body changes a lot — a whole lot — during pregnancy. 

As your body suddenly becomes responsible for nurturing you and your growing baby, there’s a shift in every aspect of your health, including oral health. Many women experience frequent canker sore outbreaks as part of this shift. This is because canker sores and pregnancy are related.

Learn more about the connection between canker sores and pregnancy so that you can better care for your oral health and comfort during this time. 

What Are Canker Sores?

Canker sores are mouth ulcers caused by a non-viral condition known as aphthous stomatitis. They develop into shallow white lesions with inflamed red or pink borders. In most cases, canker sores develop on the inner cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and the tongue. Most sores are 1-4 mm in size, but aggressive sores may be larger than 5 mm.


How Pregnancy Uniquely Effects the Body

When you become pregnant, your growing baby pulls from the vitamins in your body to develop her own bones and teeth. This is why prenatal vitamins in pregnancy are so important. They’re specially formulated to replenish your body with vital nutrients like folate, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. 

Daily prenatal vitamin intake should help your baby develop safely and prevent you from developing a nutrient deficiency. Unfortunately, many pregnant women experience a complication called malabsorption, which reduces their body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food and supplements. 

Additionally, pregnancy triggers a cascade of hormonal changes. Hormones are powerful natural substances produced by the body’s endocrine glands. As soon as they’re produced, hormones travel through your bloodstream to send messages between cells, tissues and organs. 

Pregnant women experience sudden and significant increases in hormones such as progesterone and estrogen in order to support their growing babies. These hormones support fetal development, formation of blood vessels, transfer of nutrients and much more. 

The Relationship Between Canker Sores and Pregnancy

Such dramatic nutritional and hormonal changes may trigger a domino effect that leads to canker sores during pregnancy.

Nutritional Deficiencies Cause Canker Sores

First, as your baby absorbs high levels of nutrients from your bloodstream, you can become deficient in certain core nutrients. This is especially true if you experience malabsorption. Research shows that deficiencies in folic acid, zinc, iron, calcium and B-12 can potentially trigger canker sores. 

Hormonal Changes Cause Canker Sores

Fluctuating hormones can also cause oral health problems like canker sores. For example, increased levels of progesterone cause gum inflammation and other oral health complications that make pregnant women more vulnerable to canker sore outbreaks.

This occurs because progesterone exaggerates the body’s reaction to plaque and oral bacteria. It also makes the oral environment more sensitive to stimuli such as spicy foods and acids, which increases the likelihood of canker sores.

Extra Stress Causes Canker Sores

Stress manifests itself in many ways, even in the mouth. During pregnancy, women often experience higher levels of stress due to the numerous physical and emotional changes they experience. This stress may lead to certain habits that trigger canker sores, such as biting the inner cheeks and eating acidic foods. 

canker sores and pregnancy

What You Need To Know About Oral Health During Pregnancy

Maintaining strong oral health is a priority for all adults, but its importance increases during pregnancy. Since the hormonal and nutritional changes involved in pregnancy raise your risk for cavities, inflammation, gingivitis and canker sores, you may need to take additional measures to protect your oral health. 

Besides painful canker sores, the following are some of the more significant oral health problems to watch out for and protect against during pregnancy.

Cavities During Pregnancy

A cavity develops when oral bacteria, plaque and acid wear away your tooth enamel and cause decay. Since pregnancy tends to increase the amount of acid in the mouth, especially if you experience morning sickness, cavities can form quickly and unexpectedly. 

If left untreated, cavities during pregnancy cause dangerous complications:

  • Oral abscess
  • Periodontal disease
  • Increased risk of cavities for child

The more cavities you get, the more likely you are to experience gingivitis during pregnancy as well. 

Periodontal Disease During Pregnancy

Nearly 75% of all pregnant women show signs of gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease, during pregnancy. This condition is defined by inflammation. If you notice any of these symptoms, gingivitis could be the culprit:

  • Bad breath
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Soft gums that bleed easily

Gingivitis and cavities during pregnancy don’t just harm your mouth. Unfortunately, they can also place your growing baby at risk for serious health problems. Untreated oral health problems during pregnancy may become serious and cause low birth weight, premature birth or a transfer of dangerous bacteria to the baby.


How To Strengthen Your Immune System During Pregnancy

A weakened immune system is another risk factor for canker sores. Without a strong defense system, your body loses its resilience and struggles to fight off infections and other problems, including canker sores.

It’s critical for your sake and your baby’s well-being to take measures to strengthen your immunity during pregnancy. Consider these steps to boost your immune system if you’re experiencing oral health issues like canker sores, or even before such complications develop:

  • Brush and floss daily
  • Eat whole, nutrient-dense foods
  • See your dentist regularly
  • Get daily exercise
  • Take a high-quality prenatal vitamin
  • Improve your sleep habits to stay rested

Overall, canker sores are a typically harmless, though unpleasant, side effect of pregnancy. When you understand the possible causes, you can take measures to minimize your risk of canker sore outbreaks during pregnancy. If you find yourself suffering from frequent canker sore ulcers or unusually large sores, contact your doctor for further medical attention.

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