If there’s one word that can sum up early pregnancy symptoms, it’s “hangover”. Seriously, think about it: the blinding headaches? The roiling stomach? The queasy bowel? Dizzy spells? Nausea? Mouth lined with flannel peeled off the bottom of the cat box? It’s all there, so yes – dry mouth is definitely associated with pregnancy. That doesn’t mean because you have a dry mouth, it means you’re pregnant – it means IF you’re pregnant, that’s why your mouth is dry.
Why do we get flannel-mouth in early pregnancy, anyway? It’s simple: your body is busily gearing up for “gestation” mode. This means your metabolism has jacked up – you’re running through fluids at an accelerated pace and that increases the demand on your kidneys and bladder which requires more coming in the top end to replenish. It needs to expand blood volume by half again – that needs fluid. Later on in pregnancy, you’ll experience that precious, precious feeling of your uterus slouching down all over your bladder – this is when you desperately crab-walk to the bathroom only to discover it’s two drips and a drop because your bladder has been compressed to the size of a lentil.
And why must there be the foul metallic taste, like you’ve been licking a tin can all night? That’s a hormone thing – it messes up your taste receptors and also explains why you just can’t eat certain foods that may have been favorites up to now. Seafood, eggs, meat, and chicken are all common aversions and when you look at them, you can see why: they are extremely common causes of food poisoning. Some researchers theorize that food aversion is the body’s way of limiting exposure to food-borne pathogens.
Respect the dry mouth, however: it does serve a purpose. Simple “blech” dry mouth is one thing, but if it’s accompanied by a raging thirst and possibly cracked or peeling lips and bad breath, it could be a sign of gestational diabetes and is something that needs to be brought under control immediately. Dry mouth can also be a symptom of hypertension or anemia, both of which can happen during pregnancy. Obviously, you need to visit your doctor to rule these out.
There are medications that can leave your mouth dry as the Sahara. They include anti-anxiety, anti-depressants, pain relievers, antihistamines, decongestants, diuretics for hypertension, bronchodilators, muscle relaxants, and sedatives. Other medications used to treat obesity, acne, Parkinson’s, psychotic disorders, urinary incontinence, and epilepsy can do it, too. If you are on prescription medication and even suspect you might be pregnant, the first thing you need to do – the sooner the better, because every day counts at this stage! – is check its safety on Dr Thomas Hale’s InfantRisk forum for Medication and Pregnancy. Also check the forum for mothers living with medical conditions.You will also need to see your doctor as soon as possible to give him the heads-up that your prescription needs to be tweaked or completely redone.
In any case, you cannot leave the mouth dry; that way lies dental problems, as dried-out tooth enamel becomes vulnerable to bacterial incursion and that leads to infected tooth dentin and root canals, as well as oral infections and, if nothing else, a really nasty dry throat first thing in the morning.
For a simple case of dry mouth with no underlying conditions, treatment is simple: keep a water bottle handy. If you’re eco-conscious, you might want to invest in a stainless steel, acrylic, or glass-lined bottle, as many pregnant women report that the regular plastic ones quickly develop an “off” taste, if they didn’t have one already. Hard-surface (bPA free! Very important!) bottles are easier to sanitize and won’t leach chemicals into the water. Fill it with ice before topping off with water – ice water not only moistens your oral tissues, but the cold helps blunt your taste buds. You can also add a squeeze of lemon or lime to give it a tangy zip that will stimulate your salivary glands.
Other ways to keep your mouth moist and mask that taste include carrot and celery sticks, Granny Smith apple slices, chewing gum (do not chew sugarless: artificial sweeteners are not recommended during pregnancy!), and sour hard candy such as Jolly Ranchers. If you opt for hard candy, keep it rolling around in your mouth – do not tuck it between your teeth and your cheek.