Probiotics During Pregnancy: Is It Safe When Expecting?

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When you’re expecting a new addition to your family, things can be pretty crazy; in terms of both your emotions and what’s going on around you.

You’re probably feeling a lot of excitement and love for your growing baby, but an equally overwhelming sense of unease and anxiety.

This is completely normal, and it can all be explained by hormones. But it doesn’t stop you from asking yourself unhelpful questions such as “am I doing this right?” or “am I ready for this?”

But there’s no need to panic. As you’re reading this article, it’s already evident that you want what’s best for your baby and that you probably want to know more about how to provide them with that.

Well, fortunately, a lot of it is in your control, and your baby’s health can be greatly influenced by what you decide to put into your body during pregnancy. 

If you find yourself questioning whether it’s safe or not to take probiotics while pregnant, the straight answer is yes! Probiotics have been deemed completely safe and beneficial for pregnant women to take all through the “four” trimesters.

Furthermore, there are many significant health benefits to taking probiotics when you’re trying for a baby, while pregnant, post-partum, and during nursing.

In this article, we will define probiotics, how they affect you and your baby’s health during pregnancy, and a few other things to be mindful of.

Can You Take Probiotics While Pregnant?

Using probiotics while pregnant is both safe and healthy. Probiotics are commonly recommended to pregnant women by obstetricians, midwives, and doulas.

The study of probiotics during pregnancy is still in its infant years. Nevertheless, no connection has been discovered between probiotic use and pregnancy issues such as miscarriages, abnormalities, Caesarean section, birth weight, or gestational age.

Probiotics made from human bacterial strains are a natural part of the body and thereby deemed completely safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Moreover, studies have revealed that using probiotics throughout pregnancy offers numerous advantages.

However, not every probiotic supplement is the same. It is crucial to find a probiotic supplement that is validated by evidence, is FDA-approved, and contains human bacterial strains and clean chemicals.

So, do your homework and talk to your doctor to see if adding a probiotic to your wellness routine is a smart option for you and your baby.

How Will Probiotics Affect Me While Pregnant?

Using probiotics during pregnancy works much in the same manner as it does at any other point in your life.

They inhabit the small and large intestines and aid in the improvement of numerous bodily functions. Probiotics are live bacteria found in some food products and commonly found in supplements.

These are ingested through the mouth and proceed down to your intestines, where they naturally thrive and perform their many functions.

Probiotics are supplemental to the millions of beneficial bacteria that naturally reside in a normal human gut and aid in many key functions, like supporting digestion, bowel activity, detoxifying, immune system support, and brain function. Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are two common probiotic bacterial species.

Most people just don’t have enough of a good balance or a diverse range of probiotics in their gut naturally. Stress, an imbalanced diet, processed foods, and certain drugs can kill off the healthy bacteria in your gut.

A probiotic supplement merely replenishes these beneficial bacteria in the gut, ensuring that they continue to support the overall health of your body. It is best to support the body from the inside out during pregnancy.

Taking high-quality probiotics during pregnancy and the first several weeks after birth will support and encourage a healthy pregnancy and create the groundwork for your baby’s health.

Why Should I Use Probiotics While Pregnant?

Probiotics help ensure that the pregnant woman’s gut microbiome is healthy and operating correctly, allowing vitamins and nutrients ingested through food, drinks, and supplements to be absorbed into her system and nourish both her and the developing fetus.

Furthermore, probiotics aid digestion and maintain regular bowel movements, which can sometimes be a problem during pregnancy. 

Probiotics also improve the mother’s intestinal barrier, protecting her and her baby from potentially harmful microorganisms (pathogens) that enter the bloodstream and cause illness.

Furthermore, if an expecting mother is required to take powerful medicines, such as antibiotics, probiotics can help to develop a balanced microbiome. This guarantees that all processes controlled by the intestines continue to operate normally.

A happy balance of gut flora also strengthens the immune system. And besides, the gut makes up 80 percent of the immune system. The expecting mother’s immune system changes during pregnancy to suit the growing baby.

Some probiotic bacterial strains support the strengthening of the mother’s immune system throughout pregnancy and in the regulation of the mother’s immune system after childbirth.

Taking a probiotic pill during the postnatal period is also very advantageous because this can often be a very hectic time for the mom, which can lead to irregular bowel habits.

The woman is recuperating from pregnancy and childbirth, and her hormone levels and immune system are shifting. Furthermore, many moms experience anxiety as a result of a lack of sleep and lingering worries about their baby’s health and wellbeing.

Probiotics also aid in the development of a healthy gut microbiome in the first year following birth. The way the baby’s gut microbiota develops will have an impact on his or her long-term health.

For example, allergies and skin disorders are less likely to occur in babies whose growth is assisted by probiotics. Let’s take a closer look at some of these probiotic advantages.

They Can Balance Your Gut Microbiome

Taking probiotics is extremely beneficial at any time of life. Probiotic supplementation is most typically prescribed to enhance metabolism and regulate bowel movements, as well as its ability to relieve troublesome symptoms from conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.

Moreover, the gut, with its millions of healthy gut bacteria, helps in numerous bodily activities, including digesting, but also immune function, skin health, detoxification, and brain function.

Often, individuals do not have a balanced gut flora since stress and drugs reduce the number and variety of probiotics. Adding a probiotic pill to your daily health routine can aid in the restoration and maintenance of a healthy gut, thus promoting general well-being.

Consider probiotics to be the perfect vitamin for living a healthy and vital existence.

That may seem like a strong statement, but if your digestive system isn’t working normally, your body won’t be able to soak up all of the important nutrients you’re consuming through food, drinks, and supplements.

By taking probiotics, you ensure that your digestive, nutrient absorption, and detoxification systems are all functioning properly.

They Can Keep Infections at Bay

This is a sensitive topic, and the evidence is insufficient to make definitive statements.

Nevertheless, there is reason to assume that probiotics can support in the battle against harmful bacteria in the body, lowering the risk of illnesses that can contribute to premature births.

Specific lactobacilli strains have been discovered to populate the vaginal tract, suppress infections associated with preterm birth, and modulate the immune system.

A separate study evaluating data gathered from a Norwegian group discovered that pregnant women who consumed probiotics, most typically through milk products, had a statistically significant decreased risk of premature birth.

One of the most potent characteristics of probiotic bacteria is their capacity to fight and limit the growth of infections. 

Furthermore, probiotic bacteria can alter the environment of the gut, making it less conducive to pathogen survival.

Additionally, according to a 2014 Current Diabetes Reports research, probiotics in obese and diabetic pregnant individuals marginally reduced the incidence of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia (high blood pressure and protein in the urine that can develop during pregnancy), and premature birth.

They Improve Your Bowel Movements

Less than three bowel movements each week is considered to be constipation. But for some people, not releasing stools for more than one day is considered unusual and uncomfortable for many people.

Constipation is a fairly typical symptom of pregnancy.

Approximately 40-50% of pregnant women experience constipation at some point during their pregnancy. This could be related to hormonal changes, less mobility, or physical changes in the body.

Probiotics have been shown in studies to be an effective aid for regulating digestion. In one study, only 2.4% of women who took a symbiotic (prebiotic and probiotic) supplement during the trial experienced constipation during their pregnancy.

When compared to the baseline, this represents a phenomenal 94% reduction. Probiotics help to rebalance the intestinal bacteria and increase mucus production in the intestines, which might increase the regularity and consistency of your bowel movements as well as passage of stool.

They Can Reduce the Risk of Postpartum Depression

Did you know that a healthy gut is linked to a healthy mind?

Because probiotics may help lower inflammation, they may lessen the risk of a range of diseases, but evidence for probiotics’ favorable effect on depression is rapidly growing.

More research is needed, but probiotics’ antioxidant capabilities and potential to enhance GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid – a neurotransmitter in the brain) may help improve our mood and relieve depression symptoms. 

Not only can they benefit your brain, but they can play a role in the development of your baby’s cognitive function..

They Can Prevent the Development of Allergic Diseases

Surprisingly, a newborn baby’s gut flora begins to grow from the very first day of their lives. A baby’s digestive health is formed throughout the first 12 months of life and will remain with them for the remainder of their lives.  A child’s microbiome usually reaches “maturity” by around age 3, and will be similar to an adult microbiome.

The type of delivery (vaginal birth or Caesarean section), as well as the mother’s food, supplement, and medicine intake while breastfeeding, all have an impact on how the baby’s microbiota grows.

The composition of the microbiota in the first year following birth has a long-term impact on a person’s health and well-being.

In fact, studies show that children that consume probiotics regularly through breast milk, solid food, or supplements in the first few years of life are less prone to developing seasonal and food allergies, intolerances, and chronic skin disorders such as eczema and atopic dermatitis.

In 2015, the International World Allergy Organization published a study stating that pregnant women that were at high risk of having a child with allergies would likely reduce the child’s chance of developing allergies if they took probiotic supplements throughout pregnancy and while nursing.

Do Many People Take Probiotics While Pregnant?

Probiotics are used by between 1% and 4% of pregnant women in the United States and Canada. Some Countries in Europe, such as the Netherlands, have a greater percentage.

Surprisingly, women approaching childbearing age are the most common group of probiotic users.

There hasn’t been a lot of research done on the benefits of taking probiotics during pregnancy.

Regardless, there are numerous advantages to taking a probiotic pill at any age, all of which will benefit you and your baby throughout your pregnancy.

Where Can I Get Probiotics?

There are two primary ways to get probiotics into your diet.

The first is to consume probiotic-rich meals, and the second is to take a probiotic supplement. Fermented foods, yogurt, kefir, miso, and kombucha are all high in probiotics. 

The majority of these fermented foods are completely safe to consume during pregnancy, with the exception of any non-pasteurized dairy products, which should be avoided because of Listeria (a pathogenic bacteria) concerns.

This is why pregnant women are frequently advised not to eat soft cheeses. Of course, if the dairy is pasteurized, it is safe to consume.

Water kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other non-dairy alternatives to raw milk kefir are also available.

Taking a multispecies probiotic pill will also provide you with the benefits of probiotics.

Given that a healthy human digestive tract contains billions of probiotics of thousands of different varieties, a properly made, multispecies, and multistrain probiotic supplement could be more effective than the restricted options that are available in food products.

Furthermore, the probiotic bacteria in some foods must compete to thrive in your stomach’s acidic environment. Many probiotic bacteria in foods are killed by stomach acid and never make it to your intestines, where they are most beneficial.

You can find probiotic supplements at your local health store or drugstore, and you can sometimes find some in the pharmaceutical aisles of large supermarkets.

Alternatively, you can find a whole host of probiotic options online, from websites such as Amazon.

Before you purchase probiotics online, be sure to do your research carefully, and speak with your doctor before taking anything you’re unsure about.

Always read the labels on the bottle and be sure to always take the supplements as advised by the manufacturer. 

Probiology Probiotics

Probiotics During Pregnancy Final Thoughts

As you can see, the research on probiotics and pregnancy is extensive. There are numerous advantages with very minimal risk levels.

This is an excellent method to boost the health of both you and your baby. But keep in mind that different probiotic strains help with different functions in the body, and this is especially true during pregnancy.

Here are other articles to look at for various situations to see what kind of effect probiotics can have:

Written and Medically Reviewed By

  • Chelsea Cleary, RDN

    Chelsea is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) specializing in holistic treatment for chronic digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), SIBO, and Crohn’s disease. She educates patients on how they can heal themselves from their conditions by modifying lifestyle and dietary habits.

  • Julie Guider, M.D.

    Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.