Probiotics and pregnancy: the many health benefits and what you need to know. Probiotics are one of my favorite health topics. Health begins in the gut and it begins with good bacteria called probiotics. It is especially important to have these good bacteria in your gut when you are pregnant.
As I am writing this, I am 24 weeks pregnant. And as always, I am not a doctor. I encourage you to speak to your doctor to make your decisions. I am not trying to encourage or discourage you from making health decisions. I am simply sharing what I have decided to do for myself.
The Problem With Antibiotics
Pregnant women are vulnerable to bacteria infections, most commonly Group B Strep, urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, and listeria. And very often doctors prescribe antibiotics for these infections. Antibiotics do a good job of killing the bad bacteria causing the infection…..but they also do a good job killing the good bacteria. This good bacteria is passed to the baby through the placenta, breast milk, and birth canal. When this good bacteria isn’t present (ie destroyed by antibiotics), there is an increased risk of:
- Allergies (“Babies exposed to probiotics in the womb had a 12 percent lower allergy risk than the other children. But allergy risk was not reduced when babies were started on probiotics after birth only.“; source)
- Asthma (this study showed that babies exposed to antibiotics in utero were 17% more likely to be hospitalized for asthma before the age of five)
- Skin problems
- Autoimmune disorders
- Digestive ailments
- Mood disorders (source)
- Thrush (this study showed an increased rate of thrush and breast candidiasis in antibiotic-exposed mothers who breastfed)
If the mother’s gut flora is off balance, the baby’s will be, too. Taking antibiotics during pregnancy is a very good indication that the mother’s gut flora will be off balance. Whenever possible, it’s also a good idea to avoid food sources (dairy and meat) that were raised using antibiotics.
So….How Do I Avoid Bacterial Infections?
So you’ve decided not to take antibiotics while pregnant. But what about those bacterial infections? How can you avoid them? And how do you get rid of them naturally if you get them? I’m glad you asked! One word: Probiotics.
Probiotics increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut. This reduces your risk for getting bacterial infections.
- Group B Strep: This study shows that prenatal probiotic therapy has the potential to reduce GBS colonization. This study found that some bifidobacterial strains have antibacterial properties against GBS and are potential candidates for being applied as probiotics for the prevention of GBS infections.
- Urinary Tract Infections: This review states that the use of probiotics to prevent and treat recurrent urinary tract infections is promising. This study shows that antibiotic use for the prevention of recurrent UTI in children remains unclear; however natural remedies (such as probiotics) generally gave favorable results. This study shows the best natural option for long-term prevention includes probiotics
- Bacterial Vaginosis: This review states that most studies have been in favor of the probiotics in the prevention or treatment of BV, and no adverse effects have been reported. This study shows that probiotics supplementation can significantly improve the cure rate in adult BV patients
- Listeria: In this study, mice infected with listeria were given probiotics. They found the probiotics are capable of protecting mice against death caused by listeria and induced a faster clearance of the bacteria in the liver, spleen, and peritoneal cavity. This study suggests that probiotic bacteria could be of therapeutic benefit against listerial infections.
Other Benefits of Probiotics
But wait! There’s more! Here are some other things probiotics may help prevent:
- Gestational Diabetes: This study shows that probiotic intervention during pregnancy reduced the risk of gestational diabetes and states that probiotic supplements could be a safe and cost-effective tool in addressing the metabolic epidemic. (I talk about natural alternatives for gestational diabetes here and what I am doing instead of the glucola drink test.)
- Eczema: This study shows administering probiotics during pregnancy and breast-feeding offers protection against atopic eczema during the first 2 years of life.
- Lactational Mastitis: This study used 2 control groups with mastitis: 1 took probiotics and the other took antibiotics. Women assigned to the probiotic groups improved more and had lower recurrence of mastitis than those assigned to the antibiotic group. This study shows that selected lactobacilli strains isolated from breast milk have already shown a high efficacy for treatment.
- Constipation: Constipation is a common pregnancy issue. And probiotics definitely help to keep things moving. So far, I haven’t had any problems in that area (I’m 24 weeks) and just about every pregnant woman I have ever spoken to has mentioned it at least once. I believe my regularity can be contributed to probiotics.
How Do I Get More Probiotics?
You get probiotics from supplements and fermented foods. I ferment kefir and kombucha at home and my family drinks at least one, if not both, daily. We also drink raw milk. Learn how to make them here and here. Learn more about fermenting and get lots of recipes in this book. If fermenting isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There are lots of store bought options for probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and raw milk (read why I drink raw milk while pregnant here). You can also take a probiotic supplement.
Normally, I take 1 probiotic supplement a couple times a week. Since I drink kefir, kombucha, and other fermented probiotic-rich foods, I don’t normally take a probiotic supplement daily. However, while pregnant, I am taking two different supplements daily (in addition to eating / drinking at least one fermented food daily). It is good to vary your probiotic supplements so you get different strands. I take 2 supplements at a time so I get a wider variety of probiotic strands. I use these:
I alternate which ones I take from that list. I will take a full bottle of one, then order a different brand on my next order.
My son also takes a probiotic supplement. Since he eats fermented foods, I only give it to him a couple times a week. When he was an infant, I added this powder probitoic to his formula. He was born allergic to milk and soy. when he came home (he was adopted), the doctors had him on a prescription formula that was 57% corn syrup and he took 4 medicines daily. I put him on a raw goat’s milk formula (find it here) and he was off all meds by the end of the week. He is now 2 and has zero allergies. I attribute that mainly to his probiotics. This is currently his favorite probiotic supplement.
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