Are probiotics safe during pregnancy?

probiotics and pregnancy

While they’re certainly nothing new, probiotics have become a buzzword in the healthy living sector recently. But what are they? And are they safe for pregnant women? Let’s take a closer look.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are microorganisms living in different foods and supplements which can help to promote and support the health of your digestive system. Some of the most common strains include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces. These “friendly bacteria” are very similar to the naturally occurring bacteria found in each and every person’s digestive system, and they can help to support your body as it breaks down your food.

Further to this, probiotics are also known to help your body in its production of antibodies, therefore helping to boost and protect your immune system. Often your immune system can weaken when you are expecting, so this boost can be a wonderful thing!

How do probiotics work?

The health of your digestive system is dependent on the balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria in your gut flora. When the good bacteria are keeping the bad bacteria in check, your intestines, which host about 10 trillion bacteria, should be working nicely.

However, if the bad bacteria get out of hand, you can find yourself suffering from all sorts of digestive issues such as diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and flatulence. None of these is exactly fun or comfortable!

By introducing more good bacteria through probiotics, you can help bring your gut bacteria back into balance, and ease your symptoms.

Beyond tummy complaints

Probiotics have more benefits than just easing a tummy ache though. Thanks to their ability to strengthen your immune system, they have also been found to help to with numerous other complaints such as food allergies, urinary tract infections, colds and upper respiratory tract infections, and skin conditions like eczema.

Benefits of probiotics during pregnancy

Thanks to hormonal changes slowing down the processes of the digestive tract due to muscular changes, pregnant women tend to suffer from quite a lot of stomach complaints. Morning sickness during the first trimester can exacerbate this as you tend to end up lacking many essential nutrients.

By introducing probiotics into your diet, not only do you help to support your own digestion but you also passively pass them along to your growing foetus, which can help to protect them from conditions such as asthma and eczema, as well as allergies.

How do I get more probiotics in my diet?

You can get more probiotics into your diet through both supplements and a whole range of foods and drinks.

Supplements in the form of capsules, dissolvable powders and drinks are available from most chemists, health food stores and supermarkets. There are many different types of supplements available so if in doubt, talk to your obstetrician to see if they have a recommendation.

Alternatively, there is a whole myriad of foods which can help to get the bacteria balance right in your stomach. Just a few examples of these include:

  • Yogurt
  • Miso
  • Miso soup
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Pickles
  • Kombucha
  • Kefir
  • Microalgae
  • Poi

It’s also important to note that a diet high in sugar, carbonated drinks, caffeine and processed foods can cause an imbalance in your gut flora. While introducing foods which contain probiotics may be of help, if you’re continuing to eat these foods which may have caused the problem in the first place, you will only get so far. Try to make sure you are keeping your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables up, and processed foods down.

High-stress levels and a course of antibiotics can also contribute to an imbalance in your gut flora.

Probiotics and pregnancy

As with all things relating to your health during pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to consult with your physician to ensure that what you’re doing is suitable for your own unique circumstances. This advice is meant as a general guide only.

A/Prof Indika Alahakoon is a highly experienced obstetrician based in Westmead and Bella Vista in Sydney’s west. If you would like to book a consultation with A/Prof Alahakoon, please contact us today.