Pregnancy is a transformative journey marked by profound physical and emotional changes in a woman's body. As expectant mothers prioritize their well-being and the health of their unborn child, the role of nutrition becomes paramount. Among the various dietary considerations, the importance of maintaining a healthy gut is vital. In recent years, liquid probiotics have emerged as a popular choice for enhancing gut health during pregnancy. This article explores the benefits of liquid probiotics during pregnancy, guides on choosing the right products, and addresses common concerns and questions surrounding prenatal probiotics.
Probiotics are microorganisms, mainly bacteria and yeast, that confer health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. These produce useful components such as enzymes, vitamins, and short chain fatty acids. Such friendly bacteria are commonly found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and in supplement form. The human gut is home to trillions of these microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiota, and they play a pivotal role in maintaining digestive health, supporting the immune system, and even influencing mental well-being and skin health.
The Benefits of Probiotics During Pregnancy
While further research needs to be done, the findings on the benefits of probiotic consumption for maternal and fetal health appear very promising.
Digestive Health:Due to dramatic hormonal changes, pregnancy often brings with it changes in digestion and bowel habits. Probiotics can assist in maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria, reducing the likelihood of constipation, nausea and other digestive issues.
Immune Support:Certain illnesses can cause complications in pregnancy or worse, adversely affect fetal development. Thankfully, the immune system undergoes adaptations during pregnancy to protect both mother and baby. Probiotics have been shown to modulate the immune response positively, potentially reducing the risk of infections.
Nutrient Absorption:The essence of a baby’s formation hinges on the nutritional foundation provided by food. The physical demands of pregnancy mean that optimal nutrient absorption is vital for both the mother and the developing fetus. Liquid probiotics aid in breaking down and assimilating nutrients from food, ensuring that essential vitamins and minerals are readily available for both the mother and the developing baby. Liquid probiotics are a good choice for expectant moms as the liquid format allows for more rapid absorption through the intestinal tract.
Prevention of Gestational Diabetes:Some studies suggest that probiotics may play a role in preventing gestational diabetes which can have harmful effects on both maternal and fetal health. Gestational diabetes in the mother can result in a larger than usual baby that would have to be delivered via C-section. There is also the risk of preterm birth and of the child being at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. For mom, she would have a 50% chance of developing type 2 diabetes after delivery.
Choosing the Right Liquid Probiotics for Pregnancy
With hundreds of probiotic strains available, each fulfilling different roles, it is imperative to choose strains that address the specific needs of your body. It is equally important to choose a liquid probiotic that is most appropriate during pregnancy. Here are some factors to consider:
Strain Specificity:Different probiotic strains offer distinct benefits.
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus is one of the most well-researched probiotic strains.
- It produces the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose found in milk, yoghurt and other dairy foods and turns it into lactic acid. This results in a reduction in pH, creating a slightly more acidic environment, which can then prevent pathogens from populating the gut. It is frequently used for irritable bowel syndrome symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation – which has been studied in non-pregnant people to date.
- The HN001 probiotic strain is shown to reduce the risk of eczema when taken in pregnancy and during post-partum for up to 6 months while breastfeeding (amongst those babies with a close relative or sibling with a history of hay fever, eczema, asthma or allergies).
- It supports the immune health of both moms and babies. As much of our immune response is dependent on our gut microbiome, and its impact on the baby’s future risk of allergy-type conditions such as eczema, probiotics can help regulate the immune response during pregnancy.
- It supports a healthy mood during pregnancy and post-partum, with studies showing a lower depression and anxiety scores in the 6 months postpartum period.
- This strain also helps support vaginal microbiome health and microflora balance, with research suggesting it may be helpful for bacterial vaginosis, particularly when taken in combination with Lactobacillus reuteri.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus is a common probiotic strain and is found widely in fermented foods.
- Being in the Lactobacillus family, this strain converts lactose into lactic acid, creates a more acidic environment and prevents pathogens from growing.
- Oral supplementation of Lactobacillus acidophilus can influence the health of the vaginal microbiota, which is particularly sensitive during pregnancy.
- It can help promote the immune health of both mother and baby when combined with a mixture of other probiotic strains.
- When combined with other common probiotic strains, Lactobacillus acidophilus has also been found to reduce the symptoms of depression in the postpartum period.
- Another bonus of Lactobacillus acidophilus is that it may also support blood sugar balance in pregnancy.
- Lactobacillus reuteri has digestive health benefits. It is found naturally in the breast milk of about 15% of breastfeeding women.
- It can help babies digest breast milk and solids better. It is transmitted via breast milk, so if you’re supplementing with this strain, baby will get it too.
- When taken by mothers, it can manage colic in breastfed infants.
- Promote normal healthy vaginal microflora and acid balance as well as reduce the risk of bacterial vaginosis (BV) when taken with Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001. *BV is associated with an increased risk of pre-term birth. It is important to take appropriate measures to prevent BV prior to and during pregnancy.
- Taking care of the vaginal microbiome during pregnancy is vital. A pregnancy probiotic that contains Lactobacillus reuteri in combination with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, is a key part of that.
Quality and Purity:When choosing a probiotic supplement, opt for those from reputable brands that ensure quality and purity. Look for products that are third-party tested and free from additives or unnecessary sugars and fillers. Probiotics that are free of common allergens such as dairy, nuts, gluten and soy are also a better option.
CFU Count:CFU, or colony-forming units, indicates the number of viable cells in a probiotic supplement. While higher CFU counts may sound impressive, a moderate and diverse CFU count is often more beneficial. Aim for a supplement with at least 1 to 10 billion CFUs per serving. Liquid probiotics tend to have a lower CFU count and liquid forms contain live active bacteria rather than dormant ones as found in capsules and powders.
Yogurt and Fermented Foods:Incorporating probiotics through natural food sources is an excellent option. Yogurt with live and active cultures, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi are rich in diverse probiotic strains.
Consult Your Healthcare Provider:Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen, especially during pregnancy. They can provide personalized advice based on your health status and individual needs.
Safety of Probiotics During Pregnancy
One of the primary concerns during pregnancy is ensuring the safety of any substance consumed by the mother, and probiotics are no exception. Fortunately, numerous studies suggest that probiotics are generally safe for pregnant women. The strains commonly found in food and supplements are considered safe when taken within recommended doses. However, it is crucial to consult with your healthcare provider before incorporating probiotics into your routine, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or if you're at risk for preterm birth.
The journey through pregnancy is a time of immense joy and anticipation. Taking proactive steps to support your health and the health of your baby is paramount, and the inclusion of probiotics can be a positive and impactful choice. The safety of probiotics during pregnancy, combined with their potential benefits for digestive health, immune support, and more, makes them a valuable addition to your prenatal wellness toolkit.
Remember, every pregnancy is unique and what works for one woman may not work for another. Listen to your body, stay informed, and collaborate closely with your healthcare provider to ensure that the choices you make contribute to a healthy and thriving pregnancy. Embrace the wonders of probiotics, and let them be a supportive companion in your journey to motherhood.