Probiotics during pregnancy
You may have heard stories about probiotics during pregnancy; that it prevents preterm labour or that probiotics during pregnancy can help you to lose the baby weight gained after the birth of your child. Such claims are mostly unfounded and can be extremely misleading.
During pregnancy you have too many things on your mind to be calorie counting and now is certainly not the time for dieting, but for eating a well-balanced and varied diet. You want to give your baby the best start in life and that begins with maternal nutrition. So what role should probiotics play in pregnancy nutrition, if any?
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms, such as lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria, which some people believe are a benefit to the host when taken orally. They are thought to work by modifying the number of bacteria living in our gastrointestinal tract, thereby increasing the number of beneficial gut bacteria and preventing the growth and overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
Bacterial imbalance can happen quite naturally after a virus, stomach bug or after taking a course of antibiotics and can quite often can correct itself. However, the market for foods containing probiotics has flourished in recent years… but is there really any health benefit in taking them during a healthy pregnancy?
The other main question is obviously whether taking probiotics is safe during pregnancy, whether you have taken supplemental probiotics/fortified foods for a long time or have only recently started upon confirming your pregnancy.
Probiotics and pregnancy
You don’t need to avoid probiotics during pregnancy, as they are quite safe. Many foods available in supermarkets today contain added probiotics to boost their market appeal and you don’t need to begin excluding these foods from your shopping list. For example, if you regularly consume yoghurts containing probiotics or probiotics supplement drinks then continue doing so.
If you feel that these probiotic-laden foods have had a positive effect on your gut health before pregnancy then you shouldn’t stop as they will continue to help you through your pregnancy and by cutting them out of your diet you may risk a sudden disturbance in your gut flora leading to stomach discomfort.
However, if you do not normally consume probiotic products and you do not suffer from bowel discomfort, such as in the case of IBS, then there is no need to begin just because you are pregnant, particularly as these type of products come at a premium price... money that could go into your unborn child’s trust fund, or towards ever increasingly pricey nappies!
Eating healthily during pregnancy
The most important nutritional advice for expecting mothers is to eat an adequate well balanced diet, rich in macro- and micronutrients to exclude or limit alcohol intake and to avoid certain foods. Click through for more information on pregnancy food hazards and alcohol intake during pregnancy.
One golden rule is that the nearer food is to its natural state, the better it is for you. Therefore, fresh unprocessed foods are preferred over processed convenience foods – it’s common sense.
Read more on nutrition during pregnancy.
Foods containing probiotics
There are many foods on the market which contain probiotics and here are a few examples:
- Yakult probiotics drink - contains Lactobacillus casei
- Danone’s Activia yoghurt – contains Bifidus Actiregularis
- Muller Vitality yoghurt drink – contains Bifidobacterium
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