Benefits of Probiotics in Pregnancy

Pregnancy and probiotics

Pregnancy is a phase when the mom needs to be extra vigilant with the foods and supplements she is consuming for her own and baby’s well-being. While all of us know the role of a healthy diet and supplements like iron, folic acid, and multivitamins during pregnancy, we aren’t much aware of the benefits of probiotics during pregnancy.

Experts have been able to shed light on the role and safety of probiotics during this crucial time of a woman’s life.

Following are a few benefits of taking probiotics during pregnancy:

1. Probiotics Boost the Digestive System of the Mother

Replacing the gut with healthy proactive bacteria accelerates digestion and eases constipation and abdominal discomfort, which are universal complaints encountered by a pregnant woman. Weight control is another proven benefit in a pregnant woman on probiotics.

2. Probiotics help with Bacterial Vaginosis and prevent Preterm Labor

Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal infection in which unhealthy bacteria replace the good lactobacilli. If a woman contracts this infection during pregnancy, she is at risk for premature labor. [1] Statistics show that intake of lactic acid-containing bacteria maintains a favorable vaginal milieu [2] by fending off the bad bugs while allowing the good bacteria to home the vagina. This lowers the risk of going into labor before the expected delivery date.

3. Intake of Probiotics during pregnancy prevents Allergic Reactions in babies

Probiotic consumption in a pregnant woman has shown promise in keeping allergic reactions (primarily, atopic dermatitis) in babies at bay. [2] Atopic dermatitis is a common inflammatory skin disease that affects up to 15% to 20% of newborns. [3] What accounts for this beneficial effect of probiotics in newborns? Probably, probiotics recondition the immune system in the mother and eventually in her baby, which acts as a barrier against such ailments.

4. Probiotics might benefit women with Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a condition in which a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure with the passage of proteins in urine. Inflammation of the cells lining the placenta is a hallmark of preeclampsia. Owing to their anti-inflammatory properties, the good bugs lessen the inflammation and are useful for preeclampsia. Moreover, the friendly bugs can lower the blood pressure in preeclampsia presumably by modifying the genes in the gut lining and by reducing the blood cholesterol levels. [4]

5. Balancing the Microbiota Composition in the Mother has a positive Impact on Baby’s GI tract

Experts suggest that alteration of the microbiota composition in the mother brought about by consuming probiotics positively influences the microbiome and the gut health of the baby. A healthy gut and microbiome during the developmental stages help protect the child from diseases in later life.

This disease-protection can also be attributed to the acquisition of live healthy bacteria as the baby traverses the birth canal during delivery. In fact, according to some research, friendly bugs start colonizing the baby’s gut while it is in the mother’s womb. Hence, whatever a woman ingests, including probiotics, affects the baby. [5]

What does Research indicate about the safety of Probiotics during Pregnancy?

Consumption of live healthy bacteria by pregnant or breastfeeding women does not appear to pose any major health concerns. They have excellent safety records as per statistics. [6] Their percentage of being absorbed into the blood is minimal to zero. Thus, they are unable to reach the fetus and cause any harm. Nonetheless, it is ideal to consult your Ob/Gyn prior to commencing any new product while pregnant.

References

  1. Jacobsson B, Pernevi P, Chidekel L, Jörgen Platz-Christensen J. Bacterial vaginosis in early pregnancy may predispose for preterm birth and postpartum endometritis. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2002;81(11):1006-10.
  2. Reid G, Kirjaivanen P. Taking probiotics during pregnancy: Are they useful therapy for mothers and newborns? Canadian Family Physician. 2005;51(11):1477-1479.
  3. Kalliomäki M, Salminen S, Arvilommi H et al. Probiotics in primary prevention of atopic disease: a randomised placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2001;357(9262):1076-9.
  4. Brantsæter AL, Myhre R, Haugen M, et al. Intake of Probiotic Food and Risk of Preeclampsia in Primiparous Women: The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2011;174(7):807-815. doi:10.1093/aje/kwr168.
  5. Thum C, Cookson AL, Otter DE et al. Can nutritional modulation of maternal intestinal microbiota influence the development of the infant gastrointestinal tract? J Nutr. 2012;142(11):1921-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.112.166231.
  6. Elias J, Bozzo P, Einarson A. Are probiotics safe for use during pregnancy and lactation? Canadian Family Physician. 2011;57(3):299-301.

 

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