Probiotics In Pregnancy: Should You Take Them?

Probiotics are critically important for the health of pregnant women, aiding in everything from bolstering gut health to supporting a healthy birth process. Ensuring ample intake of probiotics can further contribute to lowering the likelihood of premature birth, birth anomalies, allergies, eczema, and postpartum depression.

If you’re pregnant, it can be beneficial to supplement your diet with probiotic foods and supplements to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby.

In this post, we’ll discuss probiotics in pregnancy and how they can benefit both mom-to-be and her little one. We’ll also cover the benefits and risks of probiotic supplementation during pregnancy.

Are Probiotics Safe During Pregnancy?

Probiotics and prebiotics are foods or supplements that can benefit health. In recent years, they have been gaining popularity as women of childbearing age are suggested to supplement their diets with probiotic bacteria for improved gut health. This is because of their reported health benefits, such as supporting immune health, gut health, and overall well-being.
Generally, probiotics and prebiotics are considered safe during pregnancy as confirmed by the results of large scientific studies. However, there is not enough conclusive evidence to show that taking probiotics during pregnancy has any harmful effects. Besides, probiotics have been found not to decrease or increase the risk of negative pregnancy outcomes.
The FDA regulates probiotics under three different categories; dietary supplements, food ingredients, and drugs. Probiotics fall under the dietary supplement category which requires no safety or efficacy data to be submitted before marketing the supplement. Additionally, the products are required to contain a statement on their label saying that there is no clinical evidence for an effect of the product on pregnant women or breastfeeding women.
Probiotic bacteria have a track record for being very safe even for vulnerable populations.

Is It Necessary To Take Probiotics While Pregnant?

In general, probiotic bacteria can help support good gut health and overall health of the mother and baby. If you’re consuming probiotic foods naturally in your regular diet, it may not be necessary to add probiotics. Pregnant women may have a harder time maintaining healthy bacteria than non pregnant women, particularly as the gestational age progresses in to the third trimester.
Looking at probiotics’ effects on pregnancy outcomes, there is limited evidence showing that probiotics may benefit women’s digestion and immunity. However, more research is needed to confirm these benefits. Probiotics may also be beneficial during pregnancy by potentially aiding in prebiotic conditions such as reduced eczema and gestational diabetes risk.

How Do Probiotics Work During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, there are many microbial, immunological, hormonal, and metabolic changes that all influence one another. These can help to shape the health of the baby and the mother. These changes include increased inflammation and immune system activity, which can help prevent infections and promote healthy gut flora. As a result of this change in microbiome balance, probiotics can help top up with levels of friendly bacteria, helping to rebalance the microbiome. This can help to improve digestion and bowel movements, as well as strengthen the gut barrier and protect against potential bad bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Probiotics can also help to rebuild healthy gut flora in case the mother needs to take antibiotics. They can also reduce the risk of certain health concerns like constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Probiotics can play an important role in women’s health during pregnancy by helping to improve digestion, bowel movements, and overall gut health.

How Effective Are Probiotics During Pregnancy?

In general, probiotics are considered safe during pregnancy. However, pregnant women are advised to consult with a healthcare provider before taking any supplements. Some foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchee, and tempeh contain probiotics.
According to a meta-analysis and systematic review of 8 randomized control trials of probiotic use in over 1500 pregnant women, no increase in the incidence of miscarriages or birth defects was observed. A healthy gut with good bacteria can help prevent eczema and improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. So pregnant women need to consume probiotic-containing foods as part of a balanced diet.

Benefits Of Taking Probiotics During Pregnancy

Taking probiotics during pregnancy may support many aspects of maternal health, including improved digestion, boosted immunity, and reduced risk of gestational diabetes.
Probiotics may also help reduce common pregnancy worries such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, and nausea and vomiting.
Nausea and vomiting affect about 85% of pregnancies and can significantly impact quality of life, particularly during early pregnancy. Taking probiotics can reduce these feelings by strengthening the gut barrier and protecting against potential pathogens entering the bloodstream.
Probiotics also help to ensure that vitamins and nutrients taken in via food, drinks, and supplements are absorbed into the mother’s bloodstream and can nourish her and her baby. Overall, probiotics have many benefits for pregnant women, making them valuable supplements to add to their healthy lifestyle.

1. May Benefit Gut Health

Taking probiotics during pregnancy may improve gut bacteria composition and digestive health. Probiotics can help increase beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, and S. salivarius, which can work to improve overall digestive health. In addition, probiotics can help ensure that vitamins and nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream, nourishing both mother and baby.

Probiotics can also help protect against potentially harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi (pathogens) entering the bloodstream. This can help guard against diarrhea and other digestive issues in pregnant women. By supplementing with probiotics during pregnancy, women can ensure their gut microbiome stays healthy and balanced throughout the pregnancy process.

2. Can Help Keep You Regular

Constipation can be a common pregnancy symptom. Spasms, constipation, and irritability can make it difficult to enjoy the benefits of being pregnant. Taking probiotics can help reduce constipation by rebalancing gut bacteria and improving mucus production in the intestines. Pregnant women often experience bloating, constipation, and other digestive symptoms that can be helped by taking probiotics. It is recommended to take a supplement that contains both prebiotic and probiotic ingredients to reduce the risk of constipation during pregnancy. This can help keep your digestion regular and help with weight gain, delivery, and lactation.

3. May Reduce The Risk Of Preterm Delivery And Other Pregnancy Complications

Taking probiotic supplements may help reduce the risk of preterm delivery and other pregnancy complications, as suggested by a review including 18 randomized control trials. Women taking probiotics were shown to have a significantly lower risk of preterm delivery related death and necrotizing fasciitis compared to those receiving placebo treatments. Prebiotic supplementation has yet to be systematically reviewed for its effect on preterm birth and other pregnancy outcomes, but some evidence suggests that it may be beneficial.

In addition to supplementing with probiotic bacteria during pregnancy, women can also support their health through healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding excessive weight gain and stress [Mor et al., 2017]. These steps can help women stay healthy throughout the pregnancy and ultimately improve their chances of a healthy delivery and baby.

4. May Reduce The Risk Of Eczema In Infants

Taking probiotic supplements during pregnancy may reduce the risk of eczema in infants and children. A review of 28 studies conducted globally found a reduced risk of eczema in infants and children when probiotics were added to the mother’s supplement regimen before conception. Additionally, supplementing with probiotics before and during pregnancy has been shown to reduce the risk of allergies, specifically eczema, asthma, and atopic dermatitis in newborns. Studies have also found that adding probiotics to the mother’s supplement regimen before conception can result in a 50% reduction in the baby’s risk of allergies. Overall, taking probiotic supplements during pregnancy can help protect against eczema-related health complications for both mother and child.

5. May Reduce Depression And Anxiety

Probiotics are beneficial in pregnant women due to their potential to reduce morning sickness and constipation, as well as improve gastrointestinal health and gut function. Additionally, use of probiotics during pregnancy has been found to be safe with no increase in miscarriages or birth complications.

A study has shown that probiotics can reduce depression and anxiety symptoms in pregnant women. While it is still unclear whether probiotic supplementation can permanently change the microbiome of pregnant women, studies have shown that supplementing with probiotics during pregnancy can improve the health of the microbiome and overall health of the mother and infant. Overall, taking probiotic supplements during pregnancy can benefit both mother and baby by supporting healthy growth and development.

6. May Improve Maternal Metabolic Health

Probiotic supplement may help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels in pregnant women, potentially improving maternal metabolic health. A 2017 review of studies found that probiotic supplement reduced insulin resistance in pregnant women with gestational diabetes. However, these benefits were not seen with improved blood sugar levels.

Probiotics may also help expecting mothers absorb vitamins and nutrients, improve digestion and regularity, and protect against potential bad bacteria, viruses, and fungi. In addition, probiotics during pregnancy may help reduce the risk of gut disorders in newborn babies. Overall, taking probiotic supplement during pregnancy can benefit both mother and baby health.

Risks of Taking Probiotics During Pregnancy

The benefits of probiotics on health during pregnancy are well-established, but there are also risk factors of probiotics use during pregnancy.
The studies conducted so far do not point to any negative health effects of probiotics use during pregnancy in women without underlying health conditions or pre-existing gut issues. If you have chronic gut issues or immune system problems, discuss them with your OBGYNs before taking probiotics during pregnancy.

How to Choose a Probiotic Supplement

If you’re pregnant, consider supplementing with a prenatal probiotic to support healthy gut bacteria levels and promote healthy pregnancy outcomes. A good probiotic supplement should contain a variety of well-studied probiotic strains and be formulated without added antibiotics, dairy, or other ingredients that might interfere with gut health.

When selecting a supplement, consider factors such as the supplement’s potency and delivery system. Look for probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchee, and tempeh to get a good probiotic balance of beneficial bacteria from the diet.

Avoid Saccharomyces boulardii probiotics if pregnant as there is a lack of clinical research in pregnant women.  Keep in mind that supplements can’t replace healthy eating habits and active lifestyles during pregnancy.

Are Probiotics Safe to Take During Pregnancy?

Many women wonder when to transition to maternity clothing during pregnancy. As for the safety of probiotics, research shows that they are generally safe for pregnant women. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before introducing any new supplements or making dietary changes during pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can probiotics help with thrush?

Yes, probiotics may be beneficial for managing thrush during pregnancy. Probiotics are believed to reduce the presence of bad bacteria in your digestive system, as well as boost immunity in pregnant women. It is generally safe for pregnant women to take probiotic supplements; however, it is best to consult a doctor before taking any supplement.

In addition to probiotic supplements, certain foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchee, and tempeh are also good sources of probiotics. Apart from helping with thrush, probiotics have been linked to a multitude of health benefits such as reducing eczema risk and gestational diabetes.

Can I take probiotics with fiber?

Yes, you can take probiotics with fiber. Probiotics are bacteria found in the digestive system and can help to improve gut health. Taking probiotics with fiber can benefit pregnant women as probiotics can help reduce risk of eczema and gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Probiotics can be found in yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and kimchee. You can also supplement with probiotic capsules or powder, although it’s recommended to speak with a doctor before doing so. Fiber is essential for good health too, so make sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Can I take probiotics while breastfeeding?

Yes, probiotics are generally considered safe to take while breastfeeding. Probiotics can help support digestion and reduce the risk of certain conditions in the baby such as allergies, eczema, and diabetes. They can also be beneficial for post-partum health and support the baby’s health by supporting breast milk production and consistency while breastfeeding. You can find probiotics in many foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchee, and tempeh.

Which types of probiotics might be beneficial to pregnant women?

Pregnant women can benefit from probiotics, which can help with digestion and reduce the risk of eczema, gestational diabetes, and preterm birth. Two of the most beneficial strains of probiotics for pregnant women are lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Studies have found that these bacteria strains have no negative impacts on C-section rates, birth weight or preterm birth.
It is important to note, however, that not all probiotic products are created equal. When selecting a particular strain, pregnant women should consider their individual needs and seek advice from their healthcare provider before making a decision. Different probiotic products contain different bacteria strains and vary in terms of safety and effectiveness, so it’s essential to do your research before deciding which probiotic is best for you.

Liz Raymond

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