Chewing sugar-free gums during pregnancy could lower the chances of preterm birth by over 20 per cent. Preterm is defined as babies born alive before the completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy. According to findings of a study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the instances of preterm birth were close to 24 percent lower for pregnant women who chew sugar gums when compared to women who did not.
The findings came from a controlled trial of women in the African nation of Malawi which has the highest rate of preterm birth in the world.
The trial was based on past studies that highlighted direct co-relation between poor oral health and preterm birth. The gum given to the women contained xylitol, a chemical that can boost oral health, instead of regular sugar. Among the women who chew this gum, only 12.6 per cent or 549 out of 4,349 pregnancies were preterm. In comparison, the group that did not receive the gum saw 878 preterm births out of a total of 5321 pregnancies.
To conduct the study, the researchers enrolled over 10,000 women across eight centres in Malawi before they were pregnant or in early pregnancy. As part of the trial, the women were first given tailored information about pregnancy, ways to prevent preterm birth and improving oral health. After this, half of the women were given special gums.
Kim Boggess, a maternal-fetal medicine expert from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and a participant of the study, said that the findings were encouraging and a positive step in approaching the complex problem in low resource areas, reported Science News.
Apart from this 24 percent decline in the number of preterm births, the consumption of gums also helped reduce the risk of oral disease and improve oral health.
Preterm birth is among the leading causes of infant mortality and major health problems in children under the age of 5 years. According to the WHO, nearly 1 million children die every year due to complications arising from preterm birth.