Excessive saliva production occurring during pregnancy is known as ptyalism gravidarum or sialorrhea gravidarum. This increased production of saliva can be caused by nausea and vomiting, which are classic symptoms of morning sickness.
Morning sickness is more common during the first trimester of pregnancy, but it usually improves by the second trimester in most women. Excessive saliva production is most common in women who suffer from severe morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum during pregnancy. Hyperemesis gravidarum affects 3% of pregnancies. If you’ve heard of hyperemesis gravidarum before, it might be from headlines about the British royal family. Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, was said to suffer with this condition during her first two pregnancies.
The exact cause of pregnancy-related hyperemesis gravidarum is not certain. Theories surrounding the cause of hyperemesis gravidarum include vitamin or hormone imbalances, acid reflux, thyroid problems, or psychological issues. In serious cases, the condition can require hospitalization from dehydration, vitamin and mineral deficiency, and weight loss. Certain women may have a greater risk of developing hyperemesis gravidarum and, thus, be at a higher risk of excessive saliva production during pregnancy. Women carrying female fetuses, carrying multiple fetuses, with a personal or family history of hyperemesis gravidarum, and/or prior motion sickness or migraines are at a higher risk of developing hyperemesis gravidarum. Some studies have suggested that mothers with hyperemesis gravidarum may be more likely to have low birth weight or preterm infants.
Similar to hyperemesis gravidarum, the cause of excessive saliva production is uncertain, but has been attributed to 1) maternal anxiety around developing further nausea which leads nauseated women to swallow their saliva less often and/or 2) irritation of the throat which leads the salivary glands to increase saliva production in an attempt to soothe the throat. There is still debate over whether excess saliva production is a physiological or psychological condition. Excessive saliva production can cause sleep disturbances such as recurrent awakening during the night, and it can interfere with day-to-day social activities.
Excessive saliva production is most common in women who suffer from severe morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum during pregnancy. Hyperemesis gravidarum affects 3% of pregnancies.
There is no cure for excessive saliva production during pregnancy. Most treatment strategies only provide short-term relief. Potential strategies to cope with excess saliva production and improve the ability to swallow saliva are similar to treatment strategies for hyperemesis gravidarum. These strategies include the following:
- Regular oral hygiene including brushing your teeth and using mouthwash several times each day
- Routine oral hygiene can help maintain good gum health during pregnancy, can help prevent gum disease, and can help make swallowing easier
- Chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless hard candy or ice
- The act of chewing on sugarless gum or candy can make it easier to swallow
- Frequent sipping of water
- Regularly drinking water can make saliva easier to swallow without causing symptoms of nausea
- Eating frequent but small meals
- Healthy meals and eating to prevent an empty stomach can prevent symptoms of nausea and vomiting. Protein may help with symptoms of nausea more than starchy foods like crackers.
These strategies can help women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum swallow more regularly and decrease saliva build-up in the mouth and throat. However, some women may still complain of a bad taste in their mouth or that swallowing thickened saliva causes more nausea. In some cases, women will experience a constant desire throughout their pregnancy to remove the excess saliva in their mouths; this may require spitting or the constant use of paper cups, tissues, or cloth during pregnancy. Some studies have investigated additional treatment strategies for dealing with excessive saliva production such as hypnosis or using medications to decrease saliva production.
It is important to speak with your doctor if you are experiencing severe nausea or vomiting during pregnancy. Excessive weight loss, dehydration, or poor intake of vitamins and minerals can negatively affect the health of your baby. Many women find that a combination of social support and pinpointing a treatment that works for them can help make this condition more manageable during pregnancy.