Probiotics and Pregnancy: Can You Take Probiotics When You’re Expecting?

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You’re pregnant and feeling overwhelmed with emotions. Excitement and love for your growing baby, and an increasing sense of responsibility as well as uncertainty. You might be asking yourself: Am I doing this right? And how can I best support myself and my baby during this time?

Chances are high that if you’re reading this post you’re dedicated to living as healthy as possible during your pregnancy. A huge part of that is being mindful of what you’re putting into your body.

If you’re wondering if probiotics are safe to take during pregnancy, the answer is YES. Probiotics are absolutely safe and healthy for women to take throughout the “four” trimesters of pregnancy.

In fact, there are powerful health benefits of taking probiotics when trying to conceive, during pregnancy, as well as post-partum and while breastfeeding. In this blog post, we will discuss what probiotics are exactly, how they affect your and your baby’s health during pregnancy, and additional things to be aware of.

Are Probiotics Safe During Pregnancy?

Taking probiotics during pregnancy is safe as well as highly beneficial. Obstetricians, midwives and doulas are known to recommend probiotics to pregnant women.

Research on the use of probiotics during pregnancy is in early stages and ongoing. However, researchers have not found a link between probiotic use and pregnancy complications, including miscarriages, malformations, Caesarean section, birth weight or gestational age.

On the contrary, probiotics that consist of human bacterial strains, are a natural part of your body and therefore safe to consume while pregnant and breastfeeding. Furthermore, research has found that there are great benefits of taking probiotics in the entirety of pregnancy.

That said, not all probiotic supplements are created equal. It is important to choose a probiotic supplement that is backed by science and clinical studies, considered as safe by the FDA, as well as made up of human bacterial strains and clean ingredients.

So, do your research and consult with your healthcare professional if adding a probiotic supplement to your wellness routine is a good idea for you.

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How Do Probiotics Work During Pregnancy?

Taking probiotics while pregnant functions similarly to the way they do at most other times in life. They colonize the small and large intestine (gut), and help to improve many functions of the body.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that occur in certain foods and are common in supplements. You ingest these via the mouth and they travel down to your intestines, where they naturally live and perform their many tasks.

Specifically, probiotics are the billions of good bacteria that naturally occur in a healthy human gut and assist in many important functions in the body. These beneficial bacteria help with digestion, bowel movements, detoxification, and support the immune system and cognitive function. Common probiotic bacterial species include lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.

Many individuals do not have a sufficient amount, a healthy balance or a diversity of probiotics in their intestines. Stress, an unbalanced diet, processed foods and certain medications, to name a few factors, can kill off the good bacteria in their gut.

A probiotic supplement simply replenishes these good bacteria in the gut, making sure that they will continue to assist the healthy function of your whole body.

During pregnancy, it’s especially important to support the body from its core. Taking a high-quality probiotic in the weeks of pregnancy and the first few months after birth will help support a healthy pregnancy and help lay the foundation for the newborn’s health.

What are the Benefits of Probiotics During Pregnancy?

Probiotics ensure that the expecting mother’s gut flora is healthy and functioning properly, so that vitamins and nutrients taken in via food, drinks and supplements are absorbed into her bloodstream, and can nourish her and the growing baby.

In addition, probiotics help improve digestion and keep bowel movements regular, which can be an issue during pregnancy.

Probiotics also strengthen the mother’s gut barrier and protect her and her baby against potential bad bacteria, viruses and fungi (pathogens) entering the bloodstream, which might lead to illness and other complications.

Also, if an expectant mother has to take strong medications for whatever reason, such as antibiotics, probiotics will help to rebuild a healthy gut flora. This ensures that all processes influenced by the gut will continue to function properly.

Taking a probiotic supplement in the postpartum period is also highly beneficial, because this is a very stressful time for the mother, which often takes a toll on her body and mind.

The mother is recovering from pregnancy and birth, and her hormones and immune function are re-adjusting. In addition, for many mothers, stress occurs due to the lack of sleep and constant worry about the newborn.

Probiotics also help the baby develop a healthy gut microbiome in the first year after birth. The way the baby’s gut microbiome forms will influence his or her long-term health. For example, developing allergies and skin conditions is less likely in babies whose development is supported by probiotics.

Let’s dive deeper into some of these probiotic benefits.

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Keeping You Regular While Pregnant

Constipation is defined as less than three bowel movements per week. However, for many individuals, not passing stool for more than one day is considered abnormal and cause for discomfort.

Experiencing constipation during pregnancy is quite common. An estimated 40% of pregnant women suffer from constipation toward the end of their pregnancy. This may be due to the changes in hormones, reduction in movement and the physical changes happening in the body.

Research shows that probiotics can be a powerful tool to help regulate digestion. In one study, only 2.4% of women who had taken a symbiotic (i.e., prebiotic and probiotic) during the trial suffered from such problems at the end of their pregnancy. This is a remarkable 94% reduction compared to the baseline.

Probiotics rebalance the gut flora and improve mucus production in the intestines, which in turn can improve the frequency and consistency of your bowel movements.

Infection and Preterm Birth Prevention

This is a delicate subject and research is not fleshed out enough to say anything conclusively.

However, there is reason to believe that probiotics can help fight bad bacteria in the body and with that lower the risk of infections that can lead to preterm birth. Research found that ertain lactobacilli strains can colonize the vaginal tract and help inhibit pathogens that are associated with preterm birth, as well as regulate the immune system.

A different study analyzing data from a Norwegian cohort also found a statistically significant lower chance of preterm birth in pregnant women who consumed probiotics, most commonly via milk products.

One of the powerful features of probiotic bacteria is that specific ones have the ability to fight and inhibit the growth of pathogens. In addition, probiotic bacteria can influence the environment in the gut to make it less hospitable for pathogens to survive.

In addition, a Current Diabetes Reports article from 2014 states that “probiotics in obese and diabetic pregnant patients slightly lowered the incidence of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), and preterm delivery.”

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Prevention of Allergic Diseases

Interestingly, a newborn baby starts developing their gut microbiome the day they are born. Over the course of the first 12 months, a baby forms the basis of their intestinal health, which will stay with them for the rest of their life.

The type of delivery (vaginal birth or Caesarean section), food, supplement and medication intake from the mother while breastfeeding all influence how the baby’s microbiome develops. The makeup of the microbiota in the first year after birth will influence a person’s health and wellbeing throughout their life.

For example, research shows that children who consistently receive probiotics via breast milk, solid food, or supplements in the first few years after birth are less likely to develop seasonal and food allergies, intolerances, as well as chronic skin issues like eczema and atopic dermatitis.

The International World Allergy Organization underlined this assumption in 2015, when they published a report stating that pregnant women who were at high risk of having a child with allergies would likely decrease the child’s risk of developing allergies if they took probiotic supplements during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Maintain a Healthy Gut Microbiota

Taking probiotics is highly beneficial at any stage in life. Most commonly, probiotic supplementation is recommended to improve digestion and regulate bowel movements, as well as to manage symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases like irritable bowel syndrome.

Furthermore, the gut with its billions of good gut bacteria assists in many functions in the body, including digestion, but also immune function (80% of which resides in the intestines!), skin health, detoxification and cognitive function.

Many people don’t have a healthy gut flora, because external factors, such as stress and medications diminish the amount and diversity of probiotics.

A probiotic supplement helps to restore and maintain a healthy gut, and with that promotes overall wellbeing.

You can think of probiotics as the ultimate supplement to take to support a healthy and vital life. You might think that’s a bold statement, but if your intestinal system isn’t functioning properly, then your body isn’t able to absorb all the vital nutrients you’re taking in via food, drinks and other supplements.

By taking probiotics, you are making sure that your digestion, nutrient absorption and excretion/detoxification systems are working effectively.

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How Common is Probiotic Use During Pregnancy?

Between 1 and 4% of pregnant women in the United States and Canada use probiotics. The percentage is higher in some European countries, like the Netherlands.

Interestingly, women who are at the age when they would have children, are the most common demographic in probiotic consumers.

Research is limited on the benefits of use of probiotics during pregnancy. Regardless, there are overarching benefits of taking a probiotic supplement at any point in life, all of which will also serve you and your baby throughout your pregnancy.

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Where Can You Get Probiotics While Expecting?

There are two main ways to add probiotics to your diet. One is to eat foods that include probiotics and the other is by taking a probiotic supplement.

Foods that are rich in probiotics include fermented foods, yogurt, kefir, miso, and kombucha.

While it’s certainly beneficial to eat foods rich in probiotics, it’s important to recognize that this cannot be compared to taking a high-quality probiotic supplement. You will reap significantly more benefits by taking a multispecies and scientifically formulated probiotic supplement.

Why? Because probiotic foods typically only include one or two beneficial bacterial species or strains. Considering that there are billions of probiotics in a healthy human gut and they consist of hundreds of different kinds, a specifically formulated, multispecies, and multistrain probiotic supplement will be more effective than the limited options found in food.

In addition, the probiotic bacteria in certain foods have to fight to survive the acidic environment in your stomach. Many probiotic bacteria in food are killed by your stomach acid and never reach your intestines, where they will be most effective.

OMNi-BiOTiC® probiotics are manufactured in a powder form. By dissolving the probiotic powder in water, it is ensured that up to 90% of the beneficial bacteria survive the passage through the stomach to the intestines.

The probiotic bacteria arrive strong in the intestines, ready to perform their many important tasks in order to keep your body running at the highest level.

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