Congratulations, you're pregnant! Not only are you gearing up for the biggest life-altering event to date, you're probably also battling some pretty interesting symptoms as well. While some of them can be almost enjoyable - like those crazy cravings (pickles and ice cream, anyone?) - the rest can be downright annoying, like insomnia, nausea, bloating, cramps and fatigue.
Unless you're one of those magical pregnancy unicorns who can float through those long nine months without so much as a hiccup, you're probably dealing with one or all of the above. You may even be dealing with symptoms of a condition you didn't even know was a thing, like ptyalism.
Ptyalism (pronounced TIE-ahl-ism) is a lesser-known pregnancy condition that is characterized by hypersalivation - in other words, an overproduction of saliva. This icky and somewhat embarrassing affliction can cause excessive drooling and the constant need to spit, due to an unusual amount of saliva in the mouth.
Why does this happen during pregnancy? While fairly rare, some experts believe that ptyalism happens when nauseated pregnant women cannot swallow normal amounts of saliva, therefore giving the illusion that there is an increase in saliva production, according to Dr. Jorge Pando, OB-GYN. It can also be related to heartburn - another common pregnancy symptom.
“The contents of your stomach are acidic, and when they back up on you, they irritate your esophagus and cause the burning sensation so familiar to heartburn sufferers,” Dr. Pando says. “The acid sensors in your esophagus then trigger your salivary glands to produce saliva that has an increased concentration of bicarbonate, which is alkaline.”
While unpleasant, ptyalism is fortunately harmless to both mom and baby and is most common during the first trimester of pregnancy. It often goes away as the pregnancy progresses (usually by the third trimester), when other symptoms start to settle down as well. In the meantime, there are a number of things women can do to help alleviate some of the side effects that accompany this annoying, albeit innocuous symptom.
First of all, there is a slight chance that more severe cases can cause dehydration, so Dr. Pando recommends that women dealing with ptyalism drink plenty of fluids, and if possible, try to swallow as much saliva as they can. Cutting back on starchy foods is also a good idea - so is eating smaller, more frequent meals, chewing gum, and sleeping with your head elevated to alleviate heartburn. Oral-B recommends continuing to follow a strict oral care routine during pregnancy (see: brushing your teeth regularly and using mouthwash) not only to prevent gum disease but to also keep excessive saliva at bay, which makes it easier to swallow.
So if you're suffering from ptyalism, don't despair. It doesn't last all that long, and soon enough you'll be drooling over something completely different (and much cuter!) - the adorable little face of your newborn.