Are Probiotics Safe During Pregnancy? 6 Health Benefits
Probiotic supplementation is generally safe for use during pregnancy and lactation according to NIH.GOV. Taking probiotics during pregnancy has been linked to benefits such as fewer pregnancy complications, reduced risk of eczema in babies, and improved metabolic health in expectant mothers.
Probiotics, which are live microorganisms found naturally in the gut, are rarely systemically absorbed when taken orally or used vaginally by healthy pregnant women. Pregnancy refers to the condition of a woman carrying a developing fetus in her womb until birth.
Are All Probiotics Safe For Using During Pregnancy?
Not all probiotics are completely safe for use during pregnancy. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics are safe for using during pregnancy long-term but there have been no published studies on the safety of Saccharomyces species probiotics during pregnancy.
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria are types of beneficial bacteria that naturally reside in the human gut and are commonly found in probiotic products. Saccharomyces is a genus of nonpathogenic yeast also used in probiotic supplements.
The risk of probiotic-related infections, such as bacteremia and fungemia, is extremely low, especially in healthy pregnant mothers according to J Elias. Multiple studies and a meta-analysis have shown no increase in adverse fetal outcomes or pregnancy complications when probiotics are used by pregnant women, particularly in the third trimester.
There is no evidence of malformations or significant differences in birth weight, gestational age, or the incidence of cesarean section associated with probiotic use during pregnancy from probiotics. It is also unlikely that probiotics transfer into breast milk, and there have been no reports of adverse effects in breastfed infants.
Pregnant women should always consult with a medical professional before taking probiotics during pregnancy.
How Do Probiotics Work During Pregnancy?
Probiotics work during pregnancy by replenishing the beneficial bacteria in the gut, which help with digestion, bowel movements, detoxification, and support the immune system.
A healthy maternal microbiome is important for both the mother and the baby's health, as it can be transferred during birth.
Taking probiotic supplements can help maintain a healthy balance and diversity of these good bacteria, especially when factors like stress, unbalanced diet, processed foods, or certain medications disrupt the natural gut microbiome.
When To Take Probiotics During Pregnancy?
The best time to take probiotics during pregnancy is at 14-16 weeks gestation according to a study authored by KL Wickens. To maximize the effectiveness of the probiotic bacteria, it is recommended to take the first dose in the morning as early as possible on an empty stomach when stomach acid levels are lowest. Continue until 6-months post-birth.
Can I Drink Yogurt With Probiotics While Pregnant?
You can drink yogurt with probiotics whilst pregnant safely. A 2020 systematic review authored by A He, found that consuming probiotic yogurt during pregnancy may improve metabolism, reduce inflammation, prevent infection, and decrease the risk of preterm births, thus improving pregnancy outcomes.
6 Benefits Of Probiotics During Pregnancy
6 benefits of probiotics during pregnancy below include improvements for constipation, immunity, morning sickness, gestational diabetes, allergies and postnatal depression.
1. Helps With Constipation During Pregnancy
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium HN019 probiotics can help with constipation during pregnancy. A 2016 study authored by M Mirghafourvand, found that the consumption of both probiotic and conventional yogurt (300 g/day) improved the symptoms of constipation during pregnancy.
The frequency of defecation, straining, anorectal obstruction, manipulation to facilitate defecation, consistency of stool, and color of stool were significantly improved in both groups. Pregnancy constipation refers to the condition of experiencing difficulty in passing stools and infrequent bowel movements during pregnancy.
2. Supports Immunity During Pregnancy
Probiotics like Lactobacillus paracasei CASEI 431® can improve the immune system during pregnancy. A 2019 study authored by Y Chen, found that probiotic supplementation in pregnant women led to changes in the gut microbiota and an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines.
The composition of the gut microbiota remained stable after probiotic administration, but certain taxa at the OTU level and core microbiota showed changes. Probiotics had an immunomodulatory effect, shifting the immune state to a pro-inflammatory microenvironment in the third trimester.
3. Improves Morning Sickness During Pregnancy
Lactobacillus Probiotics can significantly improve morning sickness during pregnancy. A 2021 study authored by AT Liu, found that probiotic supplementation during early pregnancy improved gastrointestinal function and life quality. Probiotics significantly reduced the severity of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and constipation.
The study identified potential biomarkers associated with GI dysfunction, including fecal bile salt hydrolase levels and the abundance of Akkermansia muciniphila. Probiotic intake increased fecal bsh, which is believed to facilitate intestinal mobility and metabolism.
Morning sickness during pregnancy refers to the feeling of nausea and vomiting, typically occurring in the early stages of pregnancy, particularly during the morning hours, although it can happen at any time of the day.
4. Protects Against Gestational Diabetes
Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 probiotics can reduce gestational diabetes mellitus. A 2017 study authored by KL Wickens, found probiotic supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 is that it may reduce the prevalence of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) in pregnant women.
The results showed a trend towards lower rates of GDM in the group receiving HN001 compared to the placebo group, although the difference was not statistically significant according to the International Association of Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) definition. When using the New Zealand definition, GDM prevalence was significantly lower in the HN001 group.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy and affects how the body processes glucose, potentially leading to high blood sugar levels.
5. Prevents Allergies Later In Life
Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria probiotics have the potential to reduce infant allergies later in life. A 2022 study authored by AS Colquitt, found that probiotics administered to pregnant women have the potential to reduce the risk of allergic conditions, specifically eczema or atopic dermatitis, in their infants and children.
Infant allergies refer to adverse immune reactions that occur in infants in response to certain substances, such as food, pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, leading to symptoms such as skin rashes, respiratory difficulties, or digestive problems.
6. Lower Postnatal Depression
Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 probiotics can help lower postnatal depression. A 2017 study authored by RF Slykerman, found that pregnant women who received Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 probiotic during pregnancy and postpartum had significantly lower scores of depression and anxiety in the postpartum period compared to those who received a placebo.
Postpartum depression refers to a form of depression that occurs in women after giving birth, characterized by feelings of sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that can significantly impact their emotional well-being and ability to care for themselves and their newborn.
Dr. Sara Mesilhy has a Master’s degree in Gastroenterology and holds a membership with the Royal College of Physicians of the United Kingdom. She completed her Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) at Cairo University and is currently part of the ProbioticReviewGirl medical team.