Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Can Pregnant Women Take Probiotics

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Can You Take Probiotics In First Trimester

Can you take probiotics during pregnancy?

Unlike some supplements, probiotics are safe to take even in the first trimester. A 2010 study in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at the benefits of probiotics starting in the first trimester. The probiotic and healthy eating group had less gestational diabetes than the group that just ate healthy .

You dont have to wait until youre pregnant though to start taking probiotics! Building healthy gut and vaginal flora even before pregnancy has long term benefits.

Summary Of Probiotics During Pregnancy

  • Generally, taking probiotics when pregnant is considered safe, however, one probiotic yeast, Saccharomyces boulardii, is lacking in clinical research in pregnant women.
  • During pregnancy, four key areas of the body undergo microbial changes so taking a probiotic in pregnancy may help to bring balance.
  • The benefits of taking probiotics in pregnancy are far reaching and can help to support vaginal health, mental wellbeing, general immunity, gestational diabetes, IBS and bloating, occasional constipation and even morning sickness.
  • Different strains do different things, so, in terms of the best probiotics for pregnancy its a good idea to select a probiotic for pregnant women or one that has been studied for the health concern you are looking to address.
  • Its ideal to start taking a pregnancy probiotic from conception or as early on as possible. You can continue to take certain strains right through till at least 6 months after birth, however, if you are taking a different brand supplement, do check that the strains are suitable in pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Healthcare practitioners can find out more about the strains mentioned on this page on the Probiotics Database: Saccharomyces boulardii Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1®, Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14®, Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001, Lactobacillus paracasei CASEI 431®, Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM®, Lactobacillus casei Shirota®, Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 and Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12®.

Why Take Probiotics When Expecting

While probiotics are often touted as miracle supplements for people with digestive disorders or chronic GI distress, Dr. Chang-Jackson says their most common use in pregnancy is actually for maintaining the vaginal flora, not for curing stomach ills.

Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, as well as constipation, are due to hormonal changes,” she explains. “So probiotics might not have as much of an effect .

However, pregnant women are more susceptible to vaginal and yeast infections than non-pregnant women. Taking probiotics can help preserve the balance of the vaginal microbiome, may prevent the occurrence of infections, and can reduce the need for prescription medication to treat vaginal infections.

Patients dont usually know much about them, but we do tell ones with recurring vaginal infections that they can add probiotics to their routine, Dr. Chang-Jackson adds.

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Boosts The Babys Immune System

Taking probiotic supplements and drinking probiotic milk during pregnancy and breastfeeding boosts the babys overall immunity. Probiotics are even more important if the baby is born through C-section because he is not introduced to the mothers natural microflora . Additionally, autism researchers believe there is a strong link between the functioning of the brain and the gut.

How Common Is Probiotic Use During Pregnancy

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With constipation and diarrhea being two frequently experienced common discomforts during pregnancy, the use of probiotics during pregnancy is common. The Canadian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada found 45 to 93% of midwives had prescribed some form of natural health products to expecting mothers.

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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 , skin health, detoxification and cognitive function.

Many people dont 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 thats a bold statement, but if your intestinal system isnt functioning properly, then your body isnt able to absorb all the vital nutrients youre taking in via food, drinks and other supplements.

Data Synthesis And Statistical Analyses

We performed pairwise inverse variance random effects meta-analyses using Review Manager . Given the uncertainty in the field regarding the proper way of grouping the different interventions, we decided to analyse the data at three different levels: 1) Pooling probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics separately, 2) separating interventions by genus and 3) looking at each combination of species separately. Although we had planned further analyses in the protocol, they were considered to be uninformative given the characteristics of the identified studies.

We calculated pooled relative risks and mean differences with their correspondent 95% confidence intervals and quantified heterogeneity using the I-squared statistic .

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They Improve Your Bowel Movements

Less than three bowel movements each week is considered to be constipation. But for some people, not releasing stools for more than one day is considered unusual and uncomfortable for many people.

Constipation is a fairly typical symptom of pregnancy.

Approximately 40-50% of pregnant women experience constipation at some point during their pregnancy. This could be related to hormonal changes, less mobility, or physical changes in the body.

Probiotics have been shown in studies to be an effective aid for regulating digestion. In one study, only 2.4% of women who took a symbiotic supplement during the trial experienced constipation during their pregnancy.

When compared to the baseline, this represents a phenomenal 94% reduction. Probiotics help to rebalance the intestinal bacteria and increase mucus production in the intestines, which might increase the regularity and consistency of your bowel movements as well as passage of stool.

Probiotics For Pregnant Women: Best Probiotics During Pregnancy

The benefits of taking probiotics while being pregnant

by Lucy Harriss

During pregnancy, changes in hormone levels, differences in water intake and diet, and just the stress of pregnancy on the body often results in digestive issues, namely constipation, bloating and diarrhea.

To prevent these digestive issues, and other microbiome imbalances which can cause problems elsewhere like vaginal thrush, we recommend probiotics. Probiotics are most often taken orally and contain numerous bacterial colonies to rebalance your gut microbiota this is especially important during pregnancy.

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Potential Benefits Of Probiotic Use During Pregnancy

A healthy gut is especially important for expectant mothers. In addition to a healthy diet during pregnancy, taking a probiotic may help improve the health of both baby and Mother. Good nutrition during pregnancy also may reduce babys risk of disease later in life, such as heart disease and diabetes. 2

Here are a few of the purported benefits of probiotics during pregnancy.

Reduce The Risk Of Infant Atopic Eczema And Food Allergies

Eczema, recognized by red, itchy patches of skin, is a precursor to a variety of other conditions such as food allergies and asthma, so reducing or preventing it is very important.

We know that differences in a babys microbiome link to increased allergy risks, and research is supporting the use of probiotics to prevent eczema.

A large Meta-analysis reported that pregnant women given probiotics during as well as the initial postpartum period reduced eczema by 22%.

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Assist With Digestion And Nutrient Absorption

Much like probiotics can help all of us digest food better, the same goes for pregnant women. Probiotics can encourage more of the good guys and less of the bad guys in terms of bacteria in our gut, which can help our intestines move food along through our digestive system. Probiotics do help lower our colons pH levels, which can aid in digestion, in addition to improving absorption of protein and vitamins.34

Because constipation and diarrhea are incredibly common during pregnancy, probiotics may be an easy natural relief method for pregnant women. Probiotics may be most helpful, however, in relieving antibiotic-associated diarrhea.5

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Are Probiotics During Pregnancy Safe

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So, are probiotics safe during pregnancy?

Both the National Institutes of Health and National Library of Medicine have concluded probiotics dont appear to have any risks during pregnancy .

Probiotics have a track record for being very safe, even for vulnerable populations like pregnant moms, infants and the elderly. While there is a minuscule concern that probiotics can cause infections, the chances are less than one in a million from lactobacillus strains, and one in 5.6 million from S. bouladrii. The risk is even less if you dont have serious health complications. Other strains have no reports of these infections .

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How Often Should You Take Probiotics While Pregnant

It will depend on the type of probiotic you purchase, since different brands may have different dosages and dosing instructions. Additionally, some probiotics are shelf-stable and some require refrigeration, so be sure youve read about the correct way to store your specific brand.

For the most part, says Dr. Chang-Jackson, as long as youre following the package directions on whatever probiotics you purchased, they are generally safe to take during pregnancy.

Do Probiotics Pass Through Breast Milk

While few studies focus on this, we do know that probiotics pass through into your breast milk. It can alter your milk, helping to encourage the development of your babys immune system. One study showed that 40% of probiotics pass through into your breast milk, but more extensive studies rarely prove or disprove these stats.

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Does It Matter What Type Of Probiotics You Take

Typically, the strains promoted for treating vaginal or yeast infections are from the lactobacillus family: lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus rhamnosus, and lactobacillus reuteri.

Dr. Chang-Jackson says there is no specific strain she would recommend other than the ones commonly marketed to women needing vaginal flora support. She does, however, remind patients to be aware of the limitations of probiotics.

Many of the probiotics that are sold arent cleared by the FDA, so just like with any supplement, you have to take it with a grain of salt, she says.

Before you take any medication or supplement when pregnant, discuss it with your provider first.

Supplements And Food Sources

The Importance of Probiotics During Pregnancy

Numerous probiotic supplements are on the market, with varying quantities and types of strains. Talk with your health care provider to find a high-quality probiotic supplement that is right for your body. Foods are also a source of probiotics. Cultured foods include sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha, natto, miso, traditionally made dill pickles, kefir and yogurt. Including nonpasteurized cultured foods in your diet during pregnancy, along with probiotic supplementation, helps to maintain a healthy gut microbiota.

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May Improve Maternal Metabolic Health

If youre pregnant, staying healthy is essential for reducing the risk of complications and of developing certain health conditions after delivery.

Thankfully, probiotic supplements may help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels in pregnancy, which could improve health and lower the risk of complications.

A 2018 review that included 12 randomized controlled trials found that the use of probiotics during pregnancy reduced blood sugar and insulin levels .

In a 2017 review of 4 randomized controlled trials in 288 women with gestational diabetes characterized by elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy probiotics significantly reduced insulin resistance, though they didnt reduce blood sugar levels .

The researchers suggested that this could help those with gestational diabetes reduce the need for blood sugar-reducing medication later in pregnancy .

Many other studies have also shown how probiotic supplements may benefit insulin and blood sugar levels when taken during pregnancy .

Additionally, a 2017 study suggested that treatment with HN001 during pregnancy may reduce the risk of development of gestational diabetes, especially in women over the age of 35 years and those who previously had the condition .

These findings are promising, but keep in mind that research in this area is ongoing.

For some, the supplements may be beneficial during pregnancy.

Probiotics May Help Reduce Depression And Anxiety

Probiotics may be beneficial for mental health. They may help treat the symptoms of both depression and anxiety and can be used during pregnancy and after pregnancy for this specific benefit.

However, the studies on this specific benefit are not conclusive. This was why we said that it may help with depression and anxiety. Though one study led in 2017 concluded that probiotics help reduce the effects of both depression and anxiety, this study was funded by the manufacturer which leads us to believe that the results may have been influenced.

A similar study that took place in 2021 noted no effects on depression or anxiety symptoms from taking probiotic supplements.

Depression and anxiety are common conditions during pregnancy. With the results of the studies not being conclusive as to whether probiotics help reduce depression and anxiety, if you suffer from either of the conditions or notice symptoms, you should talk to a healthcare professional.

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Which Probiotic Is Best During Pregnancy

Probiotics dont have to be taken as supplements.

If youve got a craving for yogurt, kefir, tempeh, kimchi, or even kombucha that might be your bodys way of telling you its hungry for probiotics.

However, if the thought of sauerkraut makes your stomach turn, supplements could be the way to go.

Most species of probiotics are generally considered safe to take, but there are two that are the most common:

Bifidobacteria: This bacteria is usually found in the colon, lower intestine, and breast milk, and is the bacteria youll likely find in your supplements and foods. Bifidobacteria can help support your immune system, minimize the growth of bad bacteria in your gut, and break down the foods you eat into tasty nutrients. Yum!

Lactobacillus: This is the bacteria that can help with your vaginal health its naturally found there, and if you have an imbalance of lactobacillus, that could be the cause of any nasty itches or infections.

Both species of probiotics can be beneficial during pregnancy, but its best to speak with your midwife or doctor and mention your main concerns.

For example, if youve previously suffered from IBS, upping your bifidobacteria intake could help, but if yeast infections are a regular occurrence, lactobacillus could be your new best friend.

They Can Reduce The Risk Of Postpartum Depression

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Did you know that a healthy gut is linked to a healthy mind?

Because probiotics may help lower inflammation, they may lessen the risk of a range of diseases, but evidence for probiotics favorable effect on depression is rapidly growing.

More research is needed, but probiotics antioxidant capabilities and potential to enhance GABA may help improve our mood and relieve depression symptoms.

Not only can they benefit your brain, but they can play a role in the development of your babys cognitive function..

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Here Are My Top 5 Reasons For Probiotic Use In Pregnancy:

1. Immune system support: for mom and baby!

Microorganisms in the digestive tract communicate with the immune system. Any microorganism can send signals to the immune system, but probiotics or the good bacteria will send a signal that decrease inflammatory actions of the immune system. Generally speaking, inflammation promotes swelling, histamine release , and increased mucus production. At times, inflammation is necessary , but it is not something that we want to be exposed to 24/7.

Taking probiotics during pregnancy can promote anti-inflammatory actions of the immune system and can help to support the immune system during pregnancy. Research has also shown that a probiotic supplement during pregnancy increases good immune cells in breast milk that are passed on to baby during breastfeeding. This helps to establish a good range of healthy bacteria in babys developing digestive tract.

2. Prevent atopic dermatitis and food sensitivity in infants

Establishing a balance of good bacteria in an infants digestive tract is the very first way that their immune system will be stimulated. Training the body to resist inflammation will help to prevent atopic dermatitis and food sensitivities.

3. Decrease risk of asthma in children

4. Decrease fussiness in infants

5. Healthy weight gain for mom


Zhang, G, H Hu, C Liu, Q Zhang, S Shakya, Z Li. Probiotics for prevention of atopy and food hypersensitivity in early childhood. Medicine. 2016 951-10.

Characteristics Of Studies That Reported On Adverse Effects

In total, 20 different adverse effects were reported in 11 studies . The most frequently reported adverse effects were gastrointestinal symptoms , nausea , diarrhea and constipation or bloating . The majority of the adverse effects were documented in mothers . Of the 20 adverse effect types reported, 16 were associated with probiotic intake, one was associated with prebiotic intake and nine were associated with multi-factorial interventions that included probiotic supplementation . The duration of the interventions varied from the first trimester of pregnancy to one year postpartum depending on the study, with the exception of one study which did not provide any information on the start or end of the intervention39. Of the 11 studies included in the GOfER analysis, only two studies reported the timing of the adverse effect, whereas the other nine studies did not report any timing information . Further, while seven studies were conducted in healthy pregnant individuals, the other four studies were conducted in pregnant individuals with underlying health conditions. These health conditions included lactational mastitis, constipation, overweight/obesity, and intermediate-degree infections/asymptomatic bacterial vaginosis13,40â42.

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When Can I Use Probiotics During Pregnancy

That depends. Some studies have shown women using probiotics throughout their entire pregnancy with no adverse effects, while others have started in the third trimester. If youre already using probiotics before you become pregnant, tell your doctor but its likely that you wont need to stop taking probiotics or eating probiotic-rich foods once you become pregnant.

In one meta-analysis of eight randomized, controlled trials of more than 1,500 pregnant women using probiotics, most began treatment between 32 and 36 weeks gestation up until delivery. Lactobacillus spp was used alone or in combination with Bifidobacterium spp, and no adverse outcomes were reported. Additionally, probiotics are rarely systemically absorbed, and therefore not expected to transfer to breast milk if women continue using probiotics while breastfeeding.15

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