To support your baby’s development, it’s important to take supplements, however looking after your own health is just as essential as a mother’s health has a direct impact on the health of her growing baby. So, how can expecting mothers look after their health and well-being during their pregnancy?
Enter probiotics. In humans there are many strains of two main species of friendly bacteria, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Probiotics and prebiotics both help those friendly bacteria but in different ways. Probiotics are live bacteria that can be found in yogurt and other fermented foods, whereas Prebiotics are a special form of dietary fibre that nourishes the good bacteria that everyone already has in their gut.
Our gut microbiota is made up of over 10 trillion bacteria, fungi, and other organisms. Our gut health had implications beyond simply health digestion- the state of our gut health can also regulate our mood. Whilst we only really think about bacteria when we’re fighting off an infection, the majority of the bacteria in our bodies is extremely beneficial to support our physical and mental health, immunity, and more.
How Do Probiotics Support the Body During Pregnancy?
Probiotics support to rebalance the microbiome by increasing the number of friendly bacteria. Once there in the gut, they carry out a variety of responsibilities to support many aspects of health such as digestion, gas, bloating, and general immunity. A mother’s microbiome plays an important role in both hers and her baby’s health, when a baby passes through the birthing cancel, they are exposed to thousands of microbes. Hence, it’s beneficial for a mother to have lots of good bacteria to transfer to her new-born.
Are There Benefits of Probiotics During Pregnancy?
Research on the benefit of probiotics is still growing, but there is supportive data that probiotics help in the following areas:
IBS and bloating
Is It Safe To Take Probiotics During Pregnancy?
Probiotics are usually considered safe during pregnancy except one Saccharomyces boulardii, that is lacking in clinical research in pregnant women. However, it’s always a good idea to check with your provider before taking probiotics or changing your diet during pregnancy.
How To Strengthen Your Gut Health?
If you decide not to take a probiotic (which is absolutely fine) there are several ways you can strengthen your gut health:
There are various foods that are naturally rich in live and active microorganisms. Most of the foods listed below are safe, however please check with your GP if you have any concerns, and avoid all unpasteurised dairy products during pregnancy. A few options you can include in your diet:
Fermented Foods: Sauerkraut and Kimchi
Miso (Fermented Soybean Paste)
Aged Hard Cheese: Cheddar and Parmesan
Tempeh (Fermented Soy Product)
Manage Your Stress Levels
High levels of stress is taxing on your whole body including your gut. Manage your stress levels with meditation, exercise, spending time with friends or family, laughing, or yoga.
There is adequate research that tells us that lack of sleep can alter the composition of your gut microbiome because it can't do its job efficiently; try and aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Instead of filling your plate with good bacteria (as compared to bad bacteria) eat a wide range of plant based foods. Try to aim for 30 different plant based foods such as nuts, seeds, whole-grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables per week. Aim to get something from all those food group rather than fixating on eating from one category of foods.
Ultimately every pregnancy is unique, and if you decide to make changes to your diet it’s best to consult your doctor first and make the changes that make you feel good inside and out!
1. Elias J et al., "Are probiotics safe for use during pregnancy and lactation?," Can Fam Physician, pp. 57 (3): 299-301, 2011.
2. Dr Kate Stephens PhD Food and Microbial Sciences; Gut Microbiology (University of Reading), Kerry Beeson BSc (Nut. Med.) Nutritional Therapist, & Beverley Richards DipION Nutritional Therapist. (n.d.). Probiotics for pregnancy. Retrieved May 06, 2021, from https://www.optibacprobiotics.com/learning-lab/in-depth/womens-health/probiotics-for-pregnancy