Causes and How to Control It

You know that pregnancy causes all the very obvious miraculous changes in your body. But one of the many side effects most people forget about once they hold their new bundle of joy is bad breath.

Yes, as your body changes and hormones roller coaster to make a new human, some of these changes can temporarily lead to bad breath. It doesn’t help that pregnancy also heightens your sense of smell!

Bad breath during pregnancy can happen for a number of reasons. Here’s what to watch out for if you’re pregnant and suddenly have bad breath more often, and what to do about it.

There are a number of causes that can lead to bad breath during pregnancy. Some of the main causes include the following.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes are necessary and important for keeping your pregnancy on track. But they can also take you for a joy ride! Fluctuating hormones can lead to a range of unwanted side effects. This includes:

A dry mouth can lead to more bacteria on the tongue and in the mouth, causing bad breath and raising your risk of dental cavities.

And many pregnant people have some morning sickness — nausea and vomiting — mainly in the first trimester. Vomiting can cause or worsen bad breath. Nausea may worsen a dry mouth because you may not have much of an appetite to eat or drink anything.

Both nausea and vomiting can cause dehydration, worsening a dry mouth and bad breath.

Runny nose

When you’re pregnant it might feel like you always have a slight cold or allergies. This is because the increased blood flow in the body pushes more fluids into blood vessels in the nose.

The sensitive vessels in the nose leak when they get overfilled, causing a runny nose or rhinitis. Sometimes, the increased blood flow can also cause nosebleeds during pregnancy.

A runny or stuffy nose can lead to nasal drip and phlegm in the back of the throat. It can also cause infected or inflamed sinuses (sinusitis). Both of these side effects of pregnancy can make your breath smell bad.

Additionally, a stuffed or blocked nose may force you to breathe through the mouth, potentially worsening dry mouth and bad breath during pregnancy.

Gum health

The increased blood flow in your body during pregnancy may also affect your gum health. You might notice that your gums bleed more easily, especially when you’re brushing or flossing your teeth.

Pregnancy can also give you a higher risk of gingivitis or inflamed gums. Bleeding gums and gingivitis can cause or worsen bad breath when you’re pregnant.

Up to 75 percent of pregnant people get some form of gingivitis.

Tongue conditions

A swollen tongue and bad breath can happen from a fungal infection like thrush. This infection is more common during pregnancy because the immune system is weakened.

Along with bad breath during pregnancy, you might have other symptoms, depending on the underlying cause. These include:

  • heartburn (from vomiting)
  • sore throat (from nasal drip and vomiting)
  • stuffy or blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • tender sinuses
  • sinus headache
  • snoring (sleep apnea)
  • mucus (phlegm) in the throat
  • red, swollen, or tender gums
  • gums that bleed when you brush or floss
  • recurring bad taste in the mouth

Lifestyle changes like drinking more water and eating a balanced diet will often help soothe symptoms of bad breath. And they’re good for your overall health and for your growing baby, too.

To treat a runny nose and tender gums, rinse your nose and mouth regularly with sterile water that has been boiled and cooled. It also helps to gently blow your nose throughout the day. Inhale steam with a facial steamer and use a humidifier when you’re sleeping to moisten the air.

Over-the-counter nasal saline sprays are safe to use during pregnancy and may help relieve rhinitis and sinusitis. You can also use homemade saltwater solution to flush out the nose, thin mucus or phlegm, and soothe the throat as a gargle.

Unless you have a very serious bacterial infection, your doctor will likely not prescribe antibiotics during pregnancy.

Let your doctor know if you notice recurring bad breath no matter how many times you brush your teeth. Also tell them about any other signs and symptoms.

You can’t stop all the side effects that come with pregnancy, but your doctor may recommend treatments to make you feel better.

If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, schedule an appointment for a dental checkup. Remember to let your dentist know that you’re pregnant.

If possible, it’s a good idea to discuss gum health with your dentist before you get pregnant or in the early days of your pregnancy. This way if there is an underlining issue with your gums, it can be diagnosed and treated early. Your dentist can also provide valuable advice to help you lower the risk of gum disease.


Spiking hormones and greater blood circulation during pregnancy cause a number of side effects and symptoms that can cause or worsen bad breath. Caring for your dental and overall health while you’re pregnant can help:

  • brush and floss regularly
  • use a softer bristled toothbrush
  • brush gently to avoid irritating the gums
  • limit caffeine
  • limit sodas and sugary drinks
  • avoid alcohol and smoking
  • eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • eat a balanced, whole grain diet with lean meat and dairy

Bad breath is a common annoyance during pregnancy. It’s important to seek help if you experience severe bad breath that doesn’t go away or if you have any other symptoms. In some cases, you may need treatment for the underlying cause of bad breath.

Your body is undergoing tremendous changes during pregnancy. A runny nose, tender gums, and bad breath are just some of the temporary drawbacks that may happen. Remember to squeeze in regular dental cleanings and check-ups and keep up with your prenatal appointments.

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