What to Expect of Probiotics in Pregnancy

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The International Probiotics Association, IPA, Probiotics

Pregnant women want the best for their babies: no more alcohol, tobacco or other harmful substances. Healthy meals and exercise are a given. When it comes to supplements however, recommendations and usage are not so clear. Sure, most women choke down the horse tablet called a prenatal vitamin, but with probiotics, the majority decline, for reasons that most likely amount more to confusion than fear.

For instance, only 341 out of 2491 (13.7 %) mothers reported use of probiotics during pregnancy in a recent study from the Netherlands. Researchers mined data from a large ongoing prospective birth cohort study called Wheezing Illnesses Study Leidsche Rijn (WHISTLER) study. Nicole Rutten and colleagues published their results entitled maternal use of probiotics during pregnancy and effects on their offspring’s health in an unselected population in the European Journal of Pediatrics online in August of 2015.

Additional numbers come from the Massachusetts General Hospital National Pregnancy Registry for Atypical Antipsychotics. Results were reported in Archives of Women’s Mental Health in 2015.

Excluding prenatal vitamins and folic acid, the most common supplements used in pregnancy were:

  • omega-3 fatty acids (38.0 %)
  • vitamin D (11.0 %)
  • calcium (8.2 %)
  • iron (4.7 %)
  • probiotics (2.6%)

Probiotics may assist with vaginosis or constipation and assist in gestational diabetes as well as boost immunity.

In addition, preterm birth has been associated with an altered vaginal microbiome. Lactobacillus dominates the species in vaginas of healthy pregnant women. When vaginosis or infection alters the balance of microbes, risk of pre-term birth may be more likely, say researchers. Preventing pre-term birth with oral or vaginal probiotics is a new and promising area of study.

The question remains:

Are probiotics safe in pregnancy?

Practitioners Jackie Elias and colleagues addressed the issue in the Canadian Family Physician Journal:

  • Their review did not report adverse outcomes. Systemic infections are thought to be a consideration but the authors reported low risk: less than 1 per I million users of Lactobacillus probiotics and 1 per 5.6 million users of Saccharomyces boulardii.
  • A meta-analysis and systematic review of randomized control trials of probiotic use in more than 1500 pregnant women was reported. In this data, probiotic treatment began between 32 and 36 weeks gestation until delivery for most women. There were no increases in miscarriages, malformations or differences in birth weight, gestational age or number of cesarean sections.
  • The authors conclude: “Probiotics do not appear to pose any safety concerns for pregnant and lactating women. Systemic absorption is rare when probiotics are used by healthy individuals, and the current literature does not indicate an increase in adverse pregnancy outcomes.”

For specific data read the article are probiotics safe for use during pregnancy and lactation?

More people use probiotic supplements and foods than ever before. Their use in pregnancy may become more commonplace as science teases out the facts on safety.


International Probiotics Association, IPAContent provided by the International Probiotics Association (IPA).

The International Probiotics Association (IPA) is an international organization whose goal is to provide research and the latest breakthroughs in probiotic technology and new product development.

NOTE: The opinions expressed in bylined articles are not necessarily those of the publisher.

Posted on WholeFoods Magazine Online, 6/22/2016