Chewing sugar-free gums during pregnancy could lower the risk of preterm birth by more than 20 percent. Premature is defined as babies born alive before the completion of 37 weeks gestation. According to the findings of a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, preterm birth rates were nearly 24 percent lower for pregnant women who chewed sugar gum compared to women who didn’t.
The findings came from a controlled survey of women in the African country of Malawi, which has the highest rate of preterm births in the world.
The trial was based on previous studies that revealed a direct correlation between poor oral health and preterm birth. The chewing gum given to the women contained xylitol, a chemical that can improve oral health, instead of regular sugar. Of the women who chewed this gum, only 12.6 percent or 549 of 4,349 pregnancies were born prematurely. In comparison, the group that did not receive gum saw 878 preterm births out of a total of 5321 pregnancies.
To conduct the study, the researchers enrolled more than 10,000 women at eight centers in Malawi before they became pregnant or in early pregnancy. As part of the trial, the women first received personalized information about pregnancy, ways to prevent preterm birth and improve oral health. After this, half of the women were given special gums.
Kim Boggess, a maternal-fetal medicine expert at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and a study participant, said the findings were encouraging and a positive step in tackling the complex problem in areas with few resources, Science News reported.
Aside from this 24 percent drop in preterm births, gum consumption has also helped reduce the risk of oral disease and improve oral health.
Premature birth is one of the leading causes of infant mortality and serious health problems in children under the age of 5. According to the WHO, nearly 1 million children die each year from complications of preterm birth.
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