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Excessive Saliva in Pregnancy

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Excessive Saliva or Ptyalism

Learn about  increase salivation in pregnancy.

Excessive saliva is a lesser-known pregnancy symptom that’s surprising to the women it affects. Some women, especially those who are suffering from morning sickness (nausea and vomiting during pregnancy), produce more saliva than usual when they’re expecting. This is called “ptyalism,” and it’s considered a normal pregnancy symptom.

Doctors don’t know what causes pregnant women to produce more saliva, but it may be due to hormonal changes that occur in pregnancy. Another theory is that pregnant women are more prone to heartburn due to gastroesophageal reflux. As a result, their bodies produce extra saliva in pregnancy to neutralize the gastric acid. Because saliva contains bicarbonate (an alkaline), swallowing neutralizes the acid in your esophagus.

Excessive saliva is very common in pregnant women with hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness).

Women with severe morning sickness can have a hard time swallowing or holding down anything, including their own saliva. Ptyalism is more common in these women -- not because they are producing more saliva, but they have the inability to swallow normal amounts of saliva.

The average person produces 1 to 2 quarts of saliva every day. Because you are constantly swallowing your saliva, you don’t realize how much spit you’re producing. Pregnant women who are suffering from morning sickness may actually avoid swallowing to prevent vomiting, and this can make saliva build up and make their natural saliva production more noticeable.

Excessive saliva in pregnancy can be such a problem that women with this symptom often have to carry around a cup or cloth to spit into. When they sleep at night, many of these women have excessive drool.

This pregnancy symptom of excessive saliva in pregnancy is more problematic in the first trimester, when morning sickness is a major problem for expecting mothers. However, some women experience excessive saliva throughout pregnancy.

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