- Introduction to Pregnancy Probiotics
- Are Probiotics Safe During Pregnancy?
- Why Are Certain Probiotic Strains More Important During Pregnancy?
- The 3 Most Vital Pregnancy Probiotic Strains
- #1 Key Probiotic Strain: Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001
- #2 Key Probiotic Strain: Lactobacillus acidophilus
- #3 Key Probiotic Strain: Lactobacillus reuteri
- Pregnancy Probiotics: A Summary
- Ensure your Pregnancy Probiotics Reaches the Gut
Pregnancy Probiotics - The 3 Key Strains Proven to Support Pregnancy
By Perdays Team
If you are preparing for pregnancy, you’ve undoubtedly come across multiple ads for pregnancy probiotics. But what are probiotics? How do they work? Which probiotic strains are most effective?
Read on to find out.
Pregnancy Probiotics in a Nutshell
- Probiotics can help prevent pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and vaginal infections.
- The three strains that are particularly effective for pregnant women are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12, and Lactobacillus acidophilus.
- These strains have been shown to improve digestion, boost immunity, and reduce inflammation, among other benefits.
- Appropriate Pregnancy Probiotics can be found in pregnancy supplements, fermented foods, and yogurt.
Introduction to Pregnancy Probiotics
Probiotic supplements are increasingly popular amongst pregnant women and for good reason.
Clearly, optimising your gut health and your vaginal microbiome during pregnancy can support your digestive health and therefor your maternal health.
But more importantly, modern research suggests taking a targeted probiotic during pregnancy can reduce the risks of eczema in newborns, and help them establish their own gut microbiome as they travel through the vagina during birth.
In other words, it helps their immune system.
(Read more about the benefits of pregnancy probiotics.)
However, it is important to take pregnancy probiotics that include the researched strains so both you and your baby experience the benefits.
So in this article, we cover the 3 vital probiotic strains in pregnancy and the research behind each and how they can provide benefits to both mother and baby.
Are Probiotics Safe During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy probiotics are safe for women to use in late pregnancy and after the baby is born.
As with any pregnancy supplement, it is a good idea to check the ingredients with your health care professional.
So, yes you definitely can take probiotics while pregnant!
Why Are Certain Probiotic Strains More Important During Pregnancy?
Probiotics refer to the microorganisms such as bacteria, yeasts and other tiny living things that are introduced into the body through food such as yoghurt and other fermented foods or through oral capsule supplements.
However, probiotics encompass various types of bacteria and other microbes. This means each and every probiotic strain has its own unique benefits profile.
The pregnancy benefits of some probiotic strains have been studied in greater depth than others.
Even those that have been less well-researched are likely to still be present in the gut amongst those who are not pregnant too. In other words, scientists do not think that specific microbes populate the large intestine only during pregnancy.
What we do know is that there are several specific probiotic strains that have a particular set of researched pregnancy benefits for both maternal and infant health.
The 3 Most Vital Pregnancy Probiotic Strains
The three most crucial probiotics for pregnant women are Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus reuteri.
As you can see they all have something in common, they are all a part of the Lactobacillus family.
This means they can help convert some nutrients like lactose – the naturally occurring carbohydrate found in dairy products – into lactate. This creates a slightly acidic environment, which inhibits potential pathogens (not-so-good bacteria that may cause disease or an imbalance of bacteria) from growing.
Most of the vaginal microbiota – yes, there’s a whole microscopic world living in your underwear – are Lactobacilli as this helps to maintain a healthy vaginal pH.
Let’s take a look at each one of these in turn and review the research to date and the potential benefits to you and your baby.
#1 Key Probiotic Strain: Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001
Lactobacillus rhamnosus is one of the most well-researched probiotic strains.
It is well-known for its ability to produce the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose found in milk and yoghurt and other dairy foods and turns it into lactic acid.
This in turn helps to reduce the pH and make the environment slightly more acidic, which can help prevent pathogens from populating the gut.
In fact, it is often used to with irritable bowel syndrome symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea and constipation – which has been studied in non-pregnant people to date (Vitellio et al., 2020).
The HN001 probiotic strain has the following researched pregnancy benefits:
- It is shown to reduce the risk of eczema when taken in pregnancy and during post-partum for up to 6 months whilst breastfeeding (amongst those babies with a close relative or sibling with a history of hayfever, eczema, asthma or allergies; Dotterud, Johnsen & Oien, 2010).
- It supports the immune health of both pregnant mothers and babies. Given, much of our immune response is dependent on our gut microbiome, and its impact on your baby’s future risk of allergy-type conditions such as eczema, it is well understood that the 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 (Slykerman et al., 2017).
- 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 (Reid & Kirjaivanen, 2005).
Another bonus of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 is that it may also support blood sugar balance in pregnancy too and reduce the risk of Gestational Diabetes according to some research conducted in New Zealand (Wickens et al., 2017).
During pregnancy, your body’s ability to handle dietary carbohydrates can change due to changes in how we respond to the hormone, insulin.
For some pregnant women, the pancreas (the organ that produces insulin) simply cannot keep up – leading them to a diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes.
Gestational diabetes can be very effectively managed using diet, lifestyle and sometimes medications (with advice from expert pregnancy dietitian, diabetes educator and your doctor). However, a well-balanced diet of healthy fats, proteins and slow-release (or low glycaemic index) carbohydrates and plenty of fruit and veggies is key to help with blood glucose balance throughout pregnancy.
In sum, research has shown Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 is a must-have probiotic strain in a pregnancy probiotic for its benefits for both you and your baby.
#2 Key Probiotic Strain: Lactobacillus acidophilus
Lactobacillus acidophilus is a common probiotic strain and is found widely in fermented foods and yoghurt, which is where you may have heard of it before.
Again, being in the Lactobacillus family, this strain converts lactose into lactic acid, creates a more acidic environment, prevents pathogens from growing, and also promotes optimal vaginal pH balance.
It is known that oral supplementation of Lactobacillus acidophilus can influence the health of the vaginal microbiota, which is particularly important to take care of during pregnancy.
Research to date in the pregnancy health domain shows that it can help promote the immune health of both you and your baby when combined with a mixture of other probiotic strains (Baldassarre et al., 2018).
Lactobacillus acidophilus when combined with other common probiotic strains has also been found to reduce the symptoms of depression in the postpartum period (Slykerman et al., 2017) .
Another bonus of Lactobacillus acidophilus is that it too may also support blood sugar balance in pregnancy.
#3 Key Probiotic Strain: Lactobacillus reuteri
Our final vital strain Lactobacillus reuteri is a well-researched probiotic with digestive health benefits. It is found naturally in the breast milk of about 15% of breastfeeding women (Sinkiewicz & Ljunggren, 2009).
The benefits of Lactobacillus reuteri for both mother and baby are continuing to be studied, however, to date it has been shown that, L. reuteri may help:
- Babies digest breast milk and solids better. It can also be transmitted via breast milk, so that means if you’re supplementing with this probiotic strain, it will reach your baby’s tummy via your breast milk (Sinkiewicz & Ljunggren, 2009).
- Manage colic in breastfed babies, when taken by mothers (Sung et al., 2018 & Sung et al., 2014, Szajewska, Gyrczuk & Horvath, 2013).
- Promote normal healthy vaginal microflora and acid balance as well as reduce the risk of bacterial vaginosis (BV) when taken with Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001. This is a condition that affects up to 36% of pregnant women in parts of Australia (Smith et al., 2005).
*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 is important at all times – particularly during pregnancy. A pregnancy probiotic that contains Lactobacillus reuteri in combination with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, is a key part of that.
Pregnancy Probiotics: A Summary
Supplementing your diet with a probiotic during pregnancy can help reduce the colonisation of Group B Streptococcus (GBS), which can naturally colonise the vagina during pregnancy. This can impede your pregnancy and birth progress (Ho et al., 2016).
Typically, the finding of GBS in pregnancy leads to the requirement of antibiotic treatment to prevent it from contributing to an increased risk of pre-term birth. If it cannot be cleared and it can affect your birthing options too. (Farr et al., 2020).
Thinking of getting supplementing with pregnancy probiotics? Read about Pregnancy Probiotic 360° with vitamin D.
Ensure your Pregnancy Probiotics Reaches the Gut
While having the right strains present in your pregnancy probiotic is important, ensuring they actually make it to your large intestine (where they can get to work) is crucial.
When you take any pill or supplement it first arrives in the stomach – your natural acid bath that dissolves food and destroys potentially harmful bacteria.
Unfortunately, this will also destroy your probiotic strains.
Taking specially-coated capsules is one way to help your pregnancy probiotics survive the acid bath and actually reach the large intestine so they can support you and your growing baby.
So be sure to look out for this when selecting your pregnancy probiotic.
Please speak to your health care professional if you are considering starting a new supplement to ensure it is right for you and your circumstances.
If you are struggling with pregnancy or post-partum depression or anxiety, reach out to PANDA for support resources and speak with your health care provider.