If it’s your first pregnancy, it’s hard to know what to expect. Your experience may be quite different from another woman at your stage of pregnancy. One condition that some women face is ptyalism. Although the name is a bit intimidating, ptyalism simply refers to the increased production of saliva.
You’re probably familiar with the salivation you get when you see or smell something delicious, but the ptyalism of pregnancy often happens out of the blue, is excessive and usually unpleasant. Some women describe the excess saliva they produce as bitter in taste. You’re more likely to have this problem if you have morning sickness. Along with nausea, you may notice that your mouth feels with saliva, sometimes to the point that you have to spit it out.
What Causes Ptyalism during Pregnancy?
Even the experts sure why salivary glands sometimes become hyperactive during pregnancy. As with most symptoms, you deal with when you’re pregnant, fluctuating hormones likely play a role. Often nausea, related to morning sickness, aggravates the problem. You’re most likely to experience ptyalism during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Women who aren’t pregnant can also develop ptyalism and it’s more common in people who suffer from heartburn. Since heartburn is also common during pregnancy, it may be a factor in some cases of ptyalism, although you can experience it in the absence of heartburn.
Ptyalism and Heartburn
Heartburn, also known as acid reflux, is where the flap that separates your esophagus and stomach opens and allows acid from your stomach to move into your esophagus. Acid reflux causes symptoms like nausea, a sensation of acid in the back of the throat, and burning in the chest. When the acid enters your esophagus, it triggers the salivary glands to produce more saliva to help neutralize the acid.
Even if you don’t have acid reflux, you can still have ptyalism. Although it’s likely related to pregnancy, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor since other conditions can cause your salivary glands to overproduce saliva, including certain medications.
You might wonder whether ptyalism is linked with other problems during pregnancy? One study found that women who developed ptyalism were more likely to have hyperemesis gravidarum (excessive vomiting during pregnancy) and more likely to give birth to a male baby. It also found ptyalism was linked with a slightly higher incidence of delivering a small birth-weight baby.
What Can You Do about Ptyalism?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to tone down your salivary glands and make them behave. You wouldn’t want to tone them down too much since you need saliva to discourage the growth of bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease as well as for starting the process of digestion. Plus, a dry mouth would feel very uncomfortable. Some things you can do to reign in the symptoms:
- Avoid eating spicy or heavily seasoned foods. Heat and spice increase saliva flow and also worsen heartburn.
- Chew on ice cubes. This helps some women get relief from the excess saliva flow.
- Consider hypnosis. A study found hypnosis was effective for relieving the symptoms.
- Keep a cup by your side, in case you need to empty your mouth.
- Drink plenty of water to make your saliva more dilute and less bitter tasting.
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