When it comes to pregnancy and health, many mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers, your neighbour aunty would have a lot of advice and opinions on how to take care of yourself and your baby.
Some of the advice is rather true, but some are just folk tales. Hence, when it comes to probiotics, a lot of people may have misconceptions on:
What they are and what they do — are they safe for pregnant mothers?
What kind of impact would they have on their child?
Would it cause heatiness?
Later miscarriage how?
And many more.
How Do Probiotics Work During Pregnancy?
Probiotic helps in restoring your gut microbiome to a healthy level while prebiotic acts as fuel for your probiotics.
Once your gut microbiome is restored, it would greatly improve your general digestion health, but with different strains, they have different benefits and support for consumers too. Probiotics that are mentioned in this article are safe for most healthy individuals of all ages.
Research has shown that a mother’s gut microbiome can not only provide benefits to the mother but also the baby as well. Especially during the birthing process.
If the infant was delivered through vaginal instead of caesarean section, the infant would have been exposed to millions of microorganisms which is important in improving the baby’s immune system and health.
Having enough gut microbiome from probiotics could ensure the microbes exposed by the infant are at their best. During lactation, breastfed infants still get the probiotic’s benefits through breastmilk from their mothers as well which has been proven to greatly improve an infant’s immune system, reduce the risk of allergies, and promote better growth.
Furthermore, throughout pregnancy, mothers tend to experience a lot of difficulties in terms of digestion, constipation, big appetite or lack thereof, and bowel movement. Consuming probiotics and prebiotics during pregnancy could greatly aid gut health and digestion.
Benefits Of Probiotics For Pregnancy
1. Enhance Vaginal Health
Sometimes vaginal infection or urinary tract infection (UTI) may happen during pregnancy and lead to unwarranted complications. To provide better protection for the mother, probiotics could help in reducing the risk of getting UTI.
There are a few strains specific that could aid in preventing vaginal infection:
- Combination of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1® and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14®: These two strains are the most researched strains for vaginal health. They’ve been researched in pregnant women and shown to reach the vaginal tract, even when taken orally. They have been shown to reduce the number of urinary tract infections and improve symptoms associated with bacterial vaginosis and thrush.
- Combination of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 and Lactobacillus acidophilus La-14®: These two strains have been researched in women with bacterial vaginosis and thrush. Together, they have improved symptoms and reduced the risk of recurrent infections.
2. Improve Mood and Wellbeing
Throughout pregnancy, it is inevitable for the mother to experience various emotional changes and mood swings. Some husbands would accuse them of being erratic but we would say otherwise. It is completely normal and healthy to have changes in emotions and mood.
There are a few strains of probiotics that have been clinically proven to be able to aid in managing your emotions and mood:
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001: This is one of the very few probiotic strains to be trialled specifically for postnatal depression. A gold standard trial including 380 pregnant women found L. rhamnosus HN001 was able to significantly lower depression and anxiety scores. The probiotic was taken during pregnancy and for six months post-birth.
- Bifidobacterium longum R-175: has been proven to be able to reduce stress markers in a clinical study and create a sensation of relaxation when consumed at least 1b CFU of it. It is even better if it is combined with Lactobacillus helveticus R-52 which creates a perfect balance of mood and emotional wellbeing improvement.
3. Boost Up General Immunity
Taking probiotics even for non-pregnant individuals could benefit from it. Probiotics in general can improve immunity when taken consistently. Our intestines act as the first line of defence for pathogens that are ingested.
Having a healthy gut microbiome allows the good bacteria in our gut to fight and inhibit bad bacterias and viruses that we may consume or be exposed to. In general, all probiotics have immunity boosting capabilities and are not strain specifics.
4. Alleviate IBS and bloating
People with IBS are required to avoid consuming too many soluble fibres as it may trigger their symptoms. This may be especially challenging for pregnant mothers as sometimes, a craving is a craving or accessibility at the time. Probiotics could aid in utilizing the soluble fibres consumed, which may reduce the IBS symptoms and helps in managing bloating or airy feelings.
Here are some of the probiotic strains that could help in relieving IBS symptoms:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM®: This is one of the most researched probiotic strains for digestive health. It’s been shown to bind to gut cells, support a healthy gut environment and significantly improve abdominal pain and bloating.
- Lactobacillus casei Shirota®: A well-researched strain supporting gut function. The strain has been shown to improve IBS symptoms and increase the number of friendly bacteria in the gut.
- Bifidobacterium infantis 35624: This strain has shown good results for IBS. In a gold standard trial, it was shown to improve overall IBS symptoms, particularly abdominal pain and bloating.
5. Alleviate Constipation
Constipation is one of the struggles many pregnant mothers experience, the feeling of having a full bowel but lack of movement and pressure built up can easily make one irritable and uncomfortable. The high amount of progesterone hormones during pregnancy sometimes could cause unwarranted constipation, if paired with reduced gut-friendly bacteria, it could slow down digestion greatly. Probiotics and prebiotics could help in stimulating bowel movement and digestion better, even when you are not pregnant.
Here are some strains of probiotics that could help in reducing constipation
- Bifidobacterium lactis HN019: This strain has been highly researched to improve constipation & gut transit times, and to promote healthy gut function12. It has been trialled in hundreds of pregnant women and also supports a range of other GI issues, including flatulence and abdominal pain.
- Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12®: This strain has been researched in thousands of individuals, and has been shown to ease constipation and increase the number of bowel movements each week13.
Prebiotics can also ease constipation. When prebiotics is used in the gut by friendly bacteria, the bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids which can stimulate natural bowel movements and promote a healthy gut environment.
6. Enhance Infant’s Health
It has been well researched that giving infant probiotics could help in reducing the risk of developing allergies, especially among families with a hereditary risk of allergies such as eczema, asthma, or food allergies. This is because probiotics could help in boosting the immune system and give appropriate responses to a foreign substance, reducing allergic responses.
Probiotics that are clinically proven to help in reducing allergies risk are:
- Bifidobacterium breve M-16V®: Reduce the risk of intestine infection for babies
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG®: Reduce the risk of eczema development during infancy
- Lactobacillus reuteri Protectis®: Reduce colic for infants
- Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52: Reduce diarrhoea for infants
Is Probiotic Safe For Pregnant Mothers & Breastfeeding Mothers?
This is probably the first question that comes to mind when pregnant mothers are advised to eat more probiotics.
The short answer is YES, they are completely safe to consume.
The probiotics strains that are mentioned in this article are highly recommended as they are well researched and can give the mother and infant many benefits.
But a general rule of thumb for people who may not be suitable in taking probiotics, including pregnant mothers are:
- People who are immunocompromised or have autoimmune disorders (eg: cancer, lupus, multiple sclerosis etc).
- Known allergy to certain bacteria or yeast in probiotics.
- Pancreatitis (they do may worsen the infection duration)
- Critically ill or recovering from major surgery.
If you wish to consume probiotics, you are more than welcome to discuss with your doctor or your OBGYN (Obstetrician and Gynaecologist).
You can find out more about probiotics and their respective strains on Probiotic Database.
How Often Should I Consume Probiotics?
Generally, it would be recommended to consume once a day and stay consistent.
Probiotics can colonize our gut after 3-4 days of consumption and will die after 2 weeks of not consuming it. Different strains of probiotics may have varied dosages or CFU to be consumed.
Furthermore, most probiotics are required to be refrigerated or have a shorter shelf-life as probiotics tend to denature and die if exposed to heat or left too long.
For YourGutt Prebiotic + Probiotic Malaysia, we recommend consuming one sachet a day for the best of your gut health with no worries in storage and dosage as our probiotics are heat resistant and encapsulated, guaranteed 99% of survival of 1b CFU of probiotics in your gut.
What Foods Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy
Aside from the mother-in-law’s list of food to avoid, some food may be more scientifically and clinically found to be harmful to pregnant mothers and are advised to avoid:
- Deep-sea Fishes
They contain heavy metals such as mercury which is harmful to an infant’s neurodevelopment. You can still consume them but at a minimal level.
- Uncooked, Partially Cooked, Raw Meat/Food
Any form of undercooked or raw food has a higher risk of food poisoning, contamination, and bacterial/viral infection which could harm the baby. It is highly encouraged to eat food that is cooked thoroughly and that is clean.
- Mould-ripened Cheese
Similar to raw or undercooked food, mould-ripened cheese contains fungus and bacteria which may cause food poisoning and contamination which could harm the baby.
Consuming alcohol during pregnancy will cause the baby to develop fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Alcohol would cause the baby to be unable to develop properly and result in poor brain development and cognitive skill.
Limit your caffeine consumption to 200mg a day, which is about 1 cup of coffee a day. There are contradicting papers that suggest it may cause miscarriage if consumed too much but are not conclusive yet. However, consuming too much caffeine does impair nutrient absorption as well as causing digestive issues, which is important to have a healthy gut and healthy baby development. Caffeine can be found in chocolates, teas, and carbonated drinks as well.
All mothers want nothing but their growing babies. It is always important to practise moderation in diet, and commit to a well-rounded eating plan consisting of all essential nutrition. Seek professional advice from health professionals any time should you have doubts. If you would like to understand your gut health, feel free to get a quick free assessment and advice from us.
- What is Gut Health and How to Improve it
- Probiotic for the pandemic : How gut microbiomes influence immunity and covid’s severity?
Forsberg, A., Abrahamsson, T., Björkstén, B., & Jenmalm, M. (2013). Pre- and post-natalLactobacillus reuteri supplementation decreases allergen responsiveness in infancy. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 43(4), 434-442. doi: 10.1111/cea.12082
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