Probiotics During Pregnancy & Lactation
You are a health-savvy woman, so chances are you have heard the term probiotic popping up pretty much everywhere from your doctor to your Instagram feed. So what is all the hype about? I am going to break it down for you and provide some clear cut recommendations for what you should be taking, particularly during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
First a quick lesson on prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates (aka fiber) that act as food for the good bacteria (probiotics) in your gut. This is yet another reason why eating a fiber-rich diet is so important. Having a variety of fibers moving through your GI tract daily, provides consistent fuel for those good bacteria to grow and flourish.
Probiotics are bacterial strains that provide a health benefit to the host (you). The total collection of bacteria in your GI tract makes up your gut microbiome. Prebiotics and probiotics work together to create a healthy microbiome, leading to a healthier you!
Interesting Fact: Probiotics don't have exclusive benefits in the gut. There is a boom of research showing improved outcomes with probiotic supplementation for a variety of health conditions including, for the purposes of pregnancy and lactation:
- Reduced risk for Group B Strep while pregnant
- Reduced risk for mastitis while nursing
- Improved digestion & immune development for baby
To begin: a general recommendation for optimal gut function and digestion
Yes, we recommend that everyone take a daily probiotic, whether you are pregnant or not.
Here's what to look for:
- Trust-worthy brand (Warning: Not all probiotics have what they state on the label. It is not a tightly regulated market and therefore you want to pick a reliable brand with good manufacturing practices.)
- Variety of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains (For adults, a diverse microbiome that can digest the various dietary fibers we consume is advantageous.)
To maintain a healthy gut microbiome and encourage bowel regularity (aka daily poops - ain't nobody got time for constipation)...
Pregnant Mamas: A recommendation for Reducing the risk of Group B Strep
If you are newly pregnant, you probably haven't even talked about this with your doctor yet. Here's your heads up that every pregnant woman is now tested for Group B Strep (GBS), typically between weeks 35-37 in the third trimester.
GBS is a type of bacterial infection that affects about 25% of pregnant women and can cause severe health complications for the newborn. To negate this risk, women who test positive for GBS are given antibiotics during labor and delivery. Unfortunately, antibiotics prevent the mom-baby transfer of good bacteria, as well as the bad.
A randomized controlled trial in 2016 found that pregnant women who took a probiotic supplement of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 had a significant decrease in GBS. To reduce your risk for GBS and decrease the likelihood of needing antibiotics during birth...
Nursing mamas: A recommendation for reducing the risk of mastitis
Mastitis is a painful breast infection that occurs during breast feeding. It is estimated that 10-15% of nursing moms will develop mastitis. Ouch!
In 2010, researchers found that mastitis could effectively be treated with two strains of bacteria, L. fermentum or L. salivarius. Because these strains are effective at combating mastitis, we recommend nursing moms take one or both of these strains throughout the duration of lactation.
Conveniently, the Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Complete that we recommend for daily GI support, contains L. salivarius and gives you a double return on investment ;)
New Mamas: A recommendation for your baby's health
All breastfeeding babies need to be colonized with B. infantis in order to fully utilize the prebiotic component of human breast milk known as Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs). Unfortunately, due to modern medical practices such as antibiotic use and cesarean sections, as many as 90% of babies are not getting colonized with this critical strain of bacteria. Of course, these medical practices are often necessary and life-saving, so what is a mom to do?
Thankfully, breast milk researchers from the UC Davis have created a translational probiotic, specifically for infants, to ensure all babies achieve optimal colonization of B. infantis.
Even if you deliver vaginally, without antibiotics, research shows there is still no guarantee you will transfer B. infantis to your babe. Many women simply do not have it to pass on due to antibiotic courses throughout their lifetime, delivery method of their own birth (vaginal vs cesarean) or how they were nourished as an infant (breastfed vs formula).
What we do know is breast milk is the absolute gold standard for teeing up a healthy gut microbiome for your baby. Making sure they have B. infantis is the home run. In a study published last year, breastfed babies given B. infantis EVC001 had an 80% reduction in harmful gut bacteria and significantly improved utilization of breast milk. This led to better stooling patterns and digestion.
We are happier when our digestion is better and your baby will be, too. To ensure a protective gut environment for your little one...
High fives! You can now make informed probiotic choices throughout pregnancy and lactation. We are also here to help you every step of the way, so don't hesitate to reach out for a free 15 minute phone consult.
Here's to happy guts and healthy poops!
You were made for this.