8 Reasons Why Your Mouth Is *Super* Dry While Pregnant—and How to Rehydrate Yourself ASAP

Photo: Getty Images/Olga Rolenko
The occasional case of dry mouth happens to the best of us. Maybe you're a nighttime mouth breather, or you haven't sipped enough water throughout the day. But when you're pregnant? Your mouth might get drier than the Sahara desert on the daily. Turns out, dry mouth is a pretty common (albeit strange) pregnancy symptom, and just like other prenatal woes (think: morning sickness, swollen ankles, and low-back pain) it can be pretty unpleasant.

Luckily, you don't have to live with those cracked lip corners, dry tongue, or dry lips during pregnancy forever. Read on to learn the most common causes of dry mouth during pregnancy, remedies to relieve it, and when it's time to see your dentist or doctor.


Experts In This Article

What causes dry mouth during pregnancy?

Pregnant people are more likely to produce less saliva, which leads to dry mouth. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Changing hormones

Pregnancy hormones can affect just about every system in your body, and your mouth is no exception. “Hormonal fluctuations can affect the production of saliva,” says Sheryl A. Ross, MD, OB/GYN and author of ‌‌She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period‌. When you don’t make enough spit, your mouth can become really dry.

The same shift in hormones can also cause dryness in other body parts, too, including:

  • Your skin: You're more likely to have dry skin while pregnant. Higher hormone levels can trigger eczema—a skin condition that causes dry, scaly, itchy, red skin. These symptoms are more likely to strike in the first and second trimesters, according to the Australian Government’s Department of Health and Aged Care.
  • Your eyes: It's common to have vision changes during pregnancy, including dry eye, thanks to elevated levels of estrogen and progesterone, per an October 2021 study in PLOS One.

"Hormonal fluctuations can affect the production of saliva."—Sheryl A. Ross, MD, OB/GYN

2. Dehydration

Pregnant people need more water than nonpregnant folks to support their baby’s development, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA). But if you’re not sipping enough H2O throughout the day, you can become dehydrated and develop dry mouth as a result. Other dehydration side effects can include headache, fatigue, or dark-colored urine, per the Mayo Clinic.

Dehydration can also raise your risk of certain pregnancy complications. Water is essential for forming the placenta (the organ that provides nutrients to the fetus) and the amniotic sac, so a lack of it can contribute to problems like the following, per the APA:

  • Neural tube defects
  • Low amniotic fluid
  • Inadequate milk production (if you're breast/chestfeeding or pumping)
  • Premature labor

All this to say, keep a water bottle nearby, and aim to drink at least eight to 12 glasses a day.

3. Gestational diabetes

Dry mouth can be a sign of gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops in pregnant people who didn’t have diabetes before they conceived. In most cases, there aren’t obvious signs that you have gestational diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But uncontrolled blood sugar levels can increase thirst, and as a result, lead to dry mouth, Dr. Ross says. A more-frequent need to pee is also a possible symptom, per the CDC.

Because gestational diabetes can increase your risk of pregnancy complications and health issues for your baby, it’s important to manage it. Here are a few tips to do so, per the CDC:

  • Go to all your prenatal appointments to monitor you and your baby's health
  • Check your blood sugar regularly to make sure your levels stay in a healthy range
  • Work with your doctor or dietitian to create a healthy eating plan
  • Stay active to keep your blood sugar in check (always get the "okay" from your OB/GYN or midwife before doing any exercise)

4. Thrush

Your pregnancy dry mouth might be related to an overgrowth of oral fungus. During pregnancy, changes in the body can contribute to oral thrush—a yeast infection caused by a kind of fungus called Candida albicans. Usually these fungi—which can be found in the mouth (or the vagina)—don’t produce any problems, but pregnancy changes the game. When you’re expecting, your immune system doesn’t function at full capacity, so your body can’t always keep the fungus in check, according to the APA. This throws off the balance of flora in your mouth, which can cause a cottony feeling.

If you get oral thrush while pregnant, other symptoms to look out for include the following, per the APA:

  • Creamy white lesions on your tongue, inner cheeks, and sometimes on the roof of your mouth, gums, and tonsils
  • Slightly raised lesions with a cottage cheese-like appearance
  • Redness or soreness that may be severe enough to cause difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Slight bleeding if the lesions are rubbed or scraped
  • Cracking and redness at the corners of your mouth (especially in denture wearers)
  • Loss of taste

While thrush isn’t pleasant, these home remedies can often help during pregnancy, according to the APA:

  • Proper oral hygiene: Brush twice and floss once a day to ward off the growth of fungus. But avoid mouthwash for the time being because it can affect the balance of good bacteria in your oral microbiome.
  • Saltwater rinse: Rinsing with salt water might soothe painful mouth sores. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of warm water. Swish this mixture around in your mouth and then spit it out.

If your symptoms don’t subside with natural remedies, see your doctor or midwife who may prescribe an antifungal medicine that’s safe to take in pregnancy. Treating oral thrush is important because it can possibly spread into the throat, esophagus, and intestines, according to APA.

5. Swollen nasal passages

Nope, you’re not imagining things: your nose is definitely stuffier during pregnancy. Higher estrogen levels and more fluid in the body can cause pregnancy rhinitis—or inflammation and swelling of the mucous membranes in the nose, according to UT Southwestern Medical Center. But a stuffy nose can trigger a domino effect that leads to dry mouth, Dr. Ross says. “Swollen nasal passages force you to breathe through your mouth,” she says. And mouth breathing can dry out your oral cavity.

To decrease dry mouth in this scenario, you first need to deal with your nose. Here are a few safe strategies to treat pregnancy rhinitis, per UT Southwestern Medical Center:

  • Get regular exercise: Working out can help relieve nasal congestion. Again, always check with your doctor beforehand.
  • Elevate your mattress: Position the mattress (or prop yourself up with a wedge pillow) so your whole body is at a 45-degree angle.
  • Use a humidifier: Moisture in the air can help alleviate nasal irritation.
  • Try a sinus wash: Nasal saline sprays or sinus irrigation systems (like neti pots) can help clear the sinuses. Always use distilled or boiled (and cooled) water.

6. Snoring

Even if you’ve always been a silent sleeper, you might find yourself snoring in pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimesters. You can thank your growing belly, hormones, and changes in blood flow for reasons why you might snore during pregnancy, according to the University of Michigan. A stuffy nose due to pregnancy rhinitis can also make you snore like a motorboat.

Problem is “snoring leads to mouth breathing,” Dr. Ross says. As we know, mouth breathing can contribute to dry mouth.

To reduce your chances of snoring (and therefore, dry mouth), try these tips:

  • Sleep on your side: Most people snore more when they sleep on their back. As a bonus, sleeping on your left side can improve blood flow and reduce pressure on organs, which is good for you and your baby, per Mount Sinai.
  • Elevate your upper body: Raising the top of your bed a few inches or propping your torso up on some pillows can help keep your airway open during sleep, per the Cleveland Clinic.
  • Try nasal strips: Nasal strips can help you breathe more easily through the nose and may help to reduce snoring, per Mount Sinai.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene: Get adequate sleep, nap earlier in the day (try to limit your catnaps to about 30 minutes, per the CDC), and avoid caffeine or heavy meals a few hours before bedtime, according to the British Snoring and Sleep Apnea Association.

If snoring becomes severe, tell your doctor. They’ll likely want to rule out any underlying health conditions like sleep apnea.

7. Medications

Your dry mouth might be connected to something you're taking in your medicine cabinet. Many medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) can make you produce less saliva and dry out your mouth, Dr. Ross says. While the types of medications you can take during pregnancy are somewhat limited, here's a list of common drugs known to cause dry mouth as a side effect, per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Antianxiety drugs and antidepressants
  • Anticholinergics (drugs used to treat conditions like urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, and COPD)
  • Antihistamines, decongestants, and some pain medicines
  • Certain drugs for high blood pressure
  • Parkinson’s disease medications

If you still take a certain medication while pregnant and you think it's causing dry mouth, don't stop taking it just yet. Check in with your doctor first—they might be able to adjust your dose or prescribe a different drug.

8. Stress

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful. From raging hormones to significant changes in your body and preparing for baby (just to name a few), it can be a lot to handle. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, your higher stress level can also lead to dry mouth, Dr. Ross says. That’s exactly what a December 2017 study in the Journal of Dental Research, Dental Clinics, Dental Prospects found. Anxiety, stress, and depression can reduce salivary flow and contribute to dry mouth. On top of that, some medications that you may already take for anxiety or depression can affect your salivary production, too.

Symptoms of dry mouth during pregnancy

Most of us are familiar with the cottony feeling that comes with dry mouth, but there are other symptoms to keep in mind. These can include the following, per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Bad breath
  • Constant sore throat
  • Difficulty eating, speaking, or swallowing
  • Dry feeling in your nose
  • Hoarseness
  • Increased thirst
  • Lip, tongue, and mouth sores or pain
  • Taste disorders

And with severe cases of dry mouth, you might also have the following, per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Tooth decay
  • Dry eyes and skin
  • Skin rash
  • Joint pain

How to relieve dry mouth during pregnancy

Relieving dry mouth often comes down to producing more saliva. It makes sense: The more spit you get flowing, the less dry your mouth will feel. Fortunately, home remedies can help relieve the discomfort of dry mouth. Try these pregnancy-safe tips, according to Dr. Ross and the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Drink more water or suck on ice cubes/sugarless ice pops: This will keep you hydrated and help moisten your mouth. It may also help prevent chapped lips while pregnant.
  • Chew sugar-free gum: This can encourage saliva production. Same goes for sucking on sugar-free hard candy.
  • Sleep with a humidifier: This adds moisture to the air to help with nighttime dry mouth symptoms. This can help also help throat and skin dryness during pregnancy, too. A cool-mist humidifier is a good choice.
  • Use a mouthwash formulated for dry mouth (like Biotene): But always check with your doctor beforehand to make sure it’s safe during pregnancy.
  • Avoid (or limit) caffeine: Caffeine can dehydrate you.
  • Avoid decongestants and antihistamines when possible: These drugs can dry you out. Plus, some decongestants may not be safe during pregnancy; check with your doctor if you're unsure.
  • Take medications that cause dry mouth in the morning, instead: Dry mouth at night during pregnancy is more likely to cause cavities and other dental issues. Switching to taking meds in the morning (if possible) could help reduce those odds.
  • Practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly: Staying on top of your oral health can help prevent issues like thrush.
  • Treat any underlying health conditions: If a medical problem is causing your dry mouth, it’s important to address that issue first. Once treated, your dry mouth should hopefully improve.

When to see a doctor

While dry mouth during pregnancy isn’t uncommon, it can be annoying. And over time, it may even affect your teeth and gums. If you notice your mouth is still dry even if you drink plenty of water, it's best to call your doctor.

You should also reach out to your doctor if “home remedies are not helpful in relieving dry mouth and worsening symptoms of extreme thirst, dizziness, or weight loss occur,” Dr. Ross says.

The bottom line? When in doubt, get checked out—for the sake of you and your baby. Your dry mouth could be a sign of an underlying condition like gestational diabetes, which may require extra monitoring and treatment during pregnancy.

FAQ

When does dry mouth start in pregnancy?

While it depends on the person, “dry mouth can occur as early as the first trimester,” Dr. Ross says. During this time, the hormonal changes, increased blood volume, and the body’s need for additional fluids all make you more susceptible to developing dry mouth, she says.

But is dry mouth a sign of pregnancy? Not necessarily. You're more likely to have other symptoms first, like nausea, loss of your period, and fatigue.

Is bad breath a common symptom in pregnancy?

Stinky breath (aka, halitosis) is a hallmark symptom of dry mouth, which is pretty common in pregnant people. As we learned, hormonal changes during pregnancy can decrease saliva production (hence the cotton mouth situation). But with less spit to wash away bad bacteria and keep your mouth clean, you’re more likely to get bad breath, Dr. Ross says.

Bad breath can also be a sign of pregnancy gingivitis—or inflammation of the gums. Again, you can blame your surging hormones for this. Rising estrogen and progesterone levels trigger changes in your body that make you more susceptible to gingivitis in pregnancy. In fact, as many as 75 percent of birthing people will have inflamed gums, per the Cleveland Clinic.

Other gingivitis symptoms may include the following, per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Bleeding when brushing or flossing
  • Redness
  • Shiny gum surface
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness

The best defense against dry mouth, bad breath, and other dental issues is to see your dentist for routine visits, stay well-hydrated, and practice good oral hygiene (read: brush twice and floss once daily).

How much water should I drink during pregnancy?

It's best to get between 64 to 96 ounces (or eight to 12 cups) per day, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). That might sound like a lot of H2O, but getting enough water is essential for you and your baby during pregnancy. Here are just a few benefits of staying hydrated when pregnant, per the ACOG:

  • It promotes digestion and bowel movements (which is good because pregnancy can cause constipation)
  • It helps form the amniotic fluid around the fetus
  • It helps circulate nutrients in the body and to your baby
  • It helps remove waste from the body

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Asiedu K, Kyei S, Adanusa M, Ephraim RKD, Animful S, Ali-Baya SK, Akorsah B, Sekyere MA. Dry eye, its clinical subtypes and associated factors in healthy pregnancy: A cross-sectional study. PLoS One. 2021 Oct 7;16(10):e0258233. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0258233. Erratum in: PLoS One. 2022 Jan 27;17(1):e0263426. PMID: 34618845; PMCID: PMC8496781.
  2. Gholami N, Hosseini Sabzvari B, Razzaghi A, Salah S. Effect of stress, anxiety and depression on unstimulated salivary flow rate and xerostomia. J Dent Res Dent Clin Dent Prospects. 2017 Fall;11(4):247-252. doi: 10.15171/joddd.2017.043. Epub 2017 Dec 13. PMID: 29354252; PMCID: PMC5768958.

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