Saliva

You're probably getting a few odd pregnancy symptoms you hadn’t been expecting. Yet excessive saliva (ptyalism) might be one of the most unexpected...

What is ptyalism?

Ptyalism is a condition where you make too much saliva. People with ptyalism might produce one to two litres of saliva daily (Freeman et al, 1994). Ptyalism is also known as hypersalivation or sialorrhea, and often affects women in the early stages of pregnancy (VanDinter, 1991, Freeman et al, 1994). Ptyalism won’t harm your baby and is not a serious condition but that doesn’t mean you can’t find it upsetting and uncomfortable.

Excessive saliva and the first trimester

Ptyalism is common during the first trimester of pregnancy. You might need to spit out some saliva into a tissue quite often, and the bitter taste of the saliva can cause nausea and vomiting. The good news for most women is that it should ease after the first trimester.

Causes of excessive saliva

As with most things in pregnancy, your hormones are to blame for excessive saliva (Freeman et al, 1994). It can also be caused by pregnancy sickness, as nausea can make women try to swallow less, especially in those with hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme morning sickness).

Other causes include heartburn, which is common in pregnancy, and irritants like smoke, toxins and some medical conditions.

Treatments for excessive saliva

While there is no medical treatment for ptyalism, you may be able to ease symptoms by:

  • eating smaller but more frequent meals
  • brushing your teeth and using mouthwash several times a day
  • chewing sugarless gum or sucking hard sweets
  • taking frequent, small sips of water. 

    (Suzuki et al, 2009; Thaxter Nesbeth et al, 2016).

This page was last reviewed in March 2018

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Freeman JJ, Altieri RH, Baptiste HJ, Kao T, Crittenden S, Fogarty K, Moultrie M, Coney E, Kanegis K. (1994) Evaluation and management of sialorrea of pregnancy with comcomitant hyperemesis. Journal of the National Medical Association.  86:704-708. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2607586/pdf/jnma00409-0066.pdf [Accessed 13th March 2018].

Suzuki S, Igarashi M, Yamashita E, Satomi M. (2009) Ptyalism gravidarum. North American Journal of Medical Sciences 1(6): 303-304. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3364630/ [Accessed 13th March 2018].

Thaxter Nesbeth KA, Samuels LA, Nicholson Daley C, Gossell-Williams M, Nesbeth DA. (2016) Ptyalism in pregnancy – a review of epidemiology and practices. European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductive Biology 198: 47-9.  Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26785128  [Accessed 13th March 2018].

VanDinter MC. (1991) Ptyalism in pregnant women. Journal of Obstetric, Gyanecological and Neonatal Nursing. 20: 206-209. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2056357  [Accessed 13th March 2018].

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