Over the last decade, it has become increasingly apparent that our gut microbiome, you know, those living organisms inside our gastrointestinal tract, are responsible for maintaining good health, preventing obesity, changing our mood and neurotransmitter release and improving our immune system.

While many of us may have heard of probiotics we are still unclear about what they are and why we should be taking them.

Probiotics are living organisms or “good bacteria” that have been shown to help keep our gut microbiome balanced.  Probiotics can be consumed through foods, such as certain yogurts, or as a supplement. The most commonly used probiotic species are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species and non-pathogenic yeast such as Saccharomyces.  

Studies have shown that probiotics can help improve digestion, improve the immune system, help balance gut flora and functioning of the digestive tract.  

Are probiotics safe to take during pregnancy?

Probiotics are live organisms but studies have suggested that probiotics are rarely systemically absorbed in healthy females.  A study conducted on women that consumed probiotics during the third trimester showed no adverse foetal outcomes. This is also the same for women that are breastfeeding.

Are there benefits to taking probiotics during pregnancy?

Some studies have have aimed to determine he impact of probiotic use during and post-pregnancy.  These studies have not been conclusive regarding the benefits (to mother or baby?) of probiotics during pregnancy.

However,  if you have ever been pregnant, you will know that pregnancy can lead to several digestive issues such as heartburn and constipation. Probiotics have been proven to assist with improving these digestive issues.

Although the majority of the research regarding probiotics has been focused on digestive health, studies have been conducted  to determine if probiotics can improve vaginal bacteria, reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes, treat pregnant women who have bacterial vaginosis and reduce the likelihood of children developing disease such as eczema, asthma, allergies and type 1 diabetes.

What these studies found was:

  • Probiotics supplementation during pregnancy had beneficial effects on glucose metabolism, both among pregnant women with gestational diabetes and among healthy pregnant women.

  • A NZ study found that the specific strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 taken during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, and by the child from birth to 2 years of age, reduced the prevalence and development of allergies in babies such as eczema and paediatric atopic dermatitis.

  • A study found that mothers in a probiotic treatment group reported significantly lower depression and anxiety scores than those that were not treated with probiotics.

  • Some research has shown that taking probiotics (Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus acidophilus) can improve and lead to the development of good bacteria in a female’s vagina.  This is important as when a baby passes through the vaginal canal (during vaginal birth) the good bacteria will be transferred to the baby and be the commencement of its immune system.  For women that have a c-section, seeding (a swab from the vagina), can be used to obtain a similar effect, however currently the research into its effectiveness is inconclusive.

Studies have shown that a balanced microbiome plays an important role in maintaining and improving immunity.  Probiotics can assist with maintaining and achieving a balanced gut microbiome. We know that during the last three months of pregnancy, antibodies are passed from the mother to the baby through the placenta. The passing of antibodies also occurs during breastfeeding. So it is important for mummies and mummies to be to have strong immunity which they can pass onto their baby!

Overall though we know that probiotic supplementation (in addition to having a healthy diet) can be a great way to improve digestive health and immunity, and maintain a good gut flora during pregnancy and post pregnancy.  

As always, before taking anything during pregnancy it is important that you consult with your midwife or doctor to ensure that this is a right product for you, or contact MotherSafe.