Should I take a probiotic during pregnancy?
Looking after your gut health during pregnancy and breastfeeding is imperative not only for the mother’s health but for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. We have over 1,000 species of bacteria living in our digestive system, aka our gut. Collectively these bacteria, along with other pathogens like viruses, yeasts and parasites are known as our microbiome[i]. It is the diversity of the microbiome that is fundamental to our health and well-being.
Taking a probiotic during pregnancy and breastfeeding can increase microbiome diversity and have a protective role for the mother and baby[ii].
Some of the benefits of taking a probiotic during pregnancy and breastfeeding include:
1. Iron absorption
Pregnancy leads to an increased demand for iron and many women find themselves iron deficient during pregnancy despite eating plenty of iron-rich foods. Our body is amazing at adapting to changing demands and will increase the amount of iron absorbed from iron-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds when iron levels are low. However, if your gut health is not optimal then you may not be absorbing this essential iron.
Taking a probiotic will not only increase the absorption of iron from the foods in your diet but it increases the absorption of iron from your pregnancy supplement[iii].
2. Morning sickness
Many women experience nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, especially in the early stages, and not just in the morning.
In a first-of-its-kind study, The University of California has established that probiotics significantly reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. They suggest probiotics resolve morning sickness by restoring microbiome diversity impacted by hormonal changes[iv]. This is exciting and welcome news.
3. Thrush in pregnancy and breastfeeding
The microbiome changes in pregnancy can provoke candida overgrowth, especially in the second trimester.
Candida albicans is an opportunistic fungus that causes thrush. It crowds out beneficial bacteria and demands sugar, often leading to cravings for simple carbohydrates and sweets. Candida overgrowth can also lead to thrush of the nipples and may be transferred to baby during breastfeeding.
Taking a probiotic during pregnancy and breastfeeding encourages microbiome diversity and provides less opportunity for Candida overgrowth[v]
4. Post-natal depression and mood disorders for mother and baby.
Serotonin, our feel-good hormone, is predominate made in the gut, so it correlates that improving gut health can improve mood. There are a large number of studies that demonstrate the benefits of specific probiotic strains on post-natal mood[vi] along with studies confirming that women suffering post-natal depression have less microbiome diversity[vii].
Deakin University in Melbourne is a world leader in research linking gut health and mental health. Their “Bumps and Bugs” study has demonstrated that changes to a mother's microbiome directly influence her baby’s microbiome and brain development and they hypothesise that improving mother’s microbiome diversity likely leads to better mental health outcomes for baby later in life [viii].
5. Reducing the risk of mastitis
Mastitis is a serious bacterial infection that can occur during breastfeeding. It usually requires treatment with antibiotics so taking steps to prevent mastitis is preferred.
Studies show taking a probiotic which contains Lactobacillus strains can reduce the incidence of mastitis while also supporting immune function. Furthermore, for women who develop mastitis taking Lactobacillus can help fight infection.
Research into probiotics and gut health is a vastly growing and exciting area. In addition to the above benefits, there is research into specific probiotic strains to address a number of pregnancy-related conditions including fertility, Gestational diabetes, Preeclampsia, breast milk production and premature births10.
Taking a probiotic during pregnancy and breastfeeding is highly beneficial for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, however, it is important to get the right probiotic for you. Probiotics are generally safe, however, if you have any underlying health conditions please discuss any supplementation with your healthcare practitioner.
Our naturopaths are available to support your preconception, pregnancy and post-natal journey. Make an appointment today by calling (02) 8084 0081 or book online.
[ii] Probiotics and pregnancy, Luisa F Gomez Arango 1 , Helen L Barrett, Leonie K Callaway, Marloes Dekker Nitert PMID: 25398206 DOI: 10.1007/s11892-014-0567-0
[iii] Iron Supplementation Influence on the Gut Microbiota and Probiotic Intake Effect in Iron Deficiency—A Literature-Based Review
Ioana Gabriela Rusu,1,† Ramona Suharoschi,1 Dan Cristian Vodnar,1 Carmen Rodica Pop,1 Sonia Ancu?a Socaci,1 Romana Vulturar,2,3,† Magdalena Istrati,4 Ioana Moro?an,5 Anca Corina F?rca?,1 Andreea Diana Kerezsi,1 Carmen Ioana Mure?an,1 and Oana Lelia Pop1,*
[iv] Probiotics Improve Gastrointestinal Function and Life Quality in Pregnancy by Albert T. Liu 1,†, Shuai Chen 2,†ORCID, Prasant Kumar Jena 3, Lili Sheng 3, Ying Hu 3 and Yu-Jui Yvonne Wan 3,*ORCID
[v] Action mechanisms of probiotics on Candida spp. And candidiasis prevention: an update F C Ribeiro 1 , R D Rossoni 1 , P P de Barros 1 , J D Santos 1 , L R O Fugisaki 1 , M P V Leão 2 , J C Junqueira 1 Affiliations expand PMID: 31705713 DOI: 10.1111/jam.14511
[vi] Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 in Pregnancy on Postpartum Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Randomised Double-blind Placebo-controlled Trial R F Slykerman 1 , F Hood 2 et al. PMID: 28943228 PMCID: PMC5652021 DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2017.09.013
[vii] Fecal Microbiota Changes in Patients With Postpartum Depressive Disorder Yumei Zhou,* Chen Chen, Haibo Yu, and Zhuoxin Yang* Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2020; 10: 567268. Published online 2020 Sep 29. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2020.567268
9 The preventive and therapeutic effects of probiotics on mastitis: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Qinghong Yu, Chuchu Xu, Mengqian Wang, Jiayan Zhu, Linghong Yu, Zimei Yang, Shan Liu, Xiufei Gao
Published: September 9, 2022
10 Maternal Microbiome and Infections in Pregnancy
Mohammed Amir,1,† Julia A. Brown,1,† Stephanie L. Rager,2,† Katherine Z. Sanidad,1 Aparna Ananthanarayanan,1 and Melody Y. Zeng1,2,
Published online 2020 Dec 15. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms8121996 PMCID: PMC7765218 PMID: 33333813
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