Discover The Biggest Benefits of Probiotics For Fertility, Preconception And in Pregnancy

What’s the most common health benefit of probiotics?

They’re associated with improved digestion, and are near the top of the list when it comes to strengthening the health of your gut.

Here’s what to know about probiotics, and how they might help you and your baby in pregnancy.

So, what are Probiotics?

These days, there’s a good chance you’ve come across the term ‘probiotics’ (a Google search will give you 89 million hits!), so let’s take a look at what it actually means.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods (or taken as supplements) that can help maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in the gut. 

Getting this balance right, in turn, can help with the absorption of nutrients and is critical for a healthy immune system

There are many different strains of beneficial bacteria that can play a role in overall health. In recent years, there has been considerable research and discussion on the benefits of taking probiotic supplements in pregnancy, as it’s thought that this may help protect against some conditions, such as gestational diabetes.

Gut Health, Hormones and Preconception

Most people are aware of the concept of prenatal vitamins, but this is just one of several elements to optimise your health before pregnancy. However, probably one of the last areas of your body that you’re focusing on is your digestive tract.

Your gut bacteria play a key role in the endocrine and reproductive systems and can help to balance hormones. Fertility is a complex issue, with many different factors interacting, one of which is the health of your gut and vaginal microbiome.

When you’re trying to conceive, probiotics can help:

Reduce Inflammation – Many people suffer from chronic, or constant, inflammation in today’s fast-paced world, which can lead to a wide range of health issues. Among these are effects on a woman’s menstrual cycle and immune system, which may increase the time that it takes to conceive.

Sperm Health – Yep, you heard that right… gut health can affect male fertility too! Although women’s fertility is often the focus, a man’s health also plays a vital role in conception, and studies show up to 40-50% of cases are attributable to male infertility.

Vaginal Health – A healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina helps to reduce yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis (similar to a yeast infection, but bacteria-based). Probiotics through fermented foods or supplements can help restore the natural balance of bacteria.

Benefits of Probiotics in Pregnancy

Maintaining your gut health is crucial, especially when pregnant, and recent research suggests that taking probiotics during pregnancy may be one way to improve gut bacteria composition and help your digestive system work more efficiently.

Through food or supplements, regular intake of probiotics may help prevent adverse pregnancy outcomes such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Other benefits can include lowering the risk of:

  • Illness (colds and flu)
  • Constipation
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Yeast infections

A 2020 review also found that pregnant women taking probiotics carried their babies closer to term than those who received placebo treatments.

Some evidence suggests that taking probiotics with particular strains of bacteria during pregnancy may also reduce the risk of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection, a type of bacteria that approximately 30% of pregnant women carry in their vagina. 

Routine screening is offered for GBS in most hospitals between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. Most of the time, it’s harmless. However, GBS can be passed to the newborn during vaginal delivery and can cause a severe infection anywhere between 24 hours to 3 months after delivery. 

Therefore, intravenous antibiotics are often given to the mother during labour and delivery if GBS is present. However, steps in pregnancy, including specific probiotics, can help reduce the risk of this condition.

Probiotic Benefits for Babies

Baby’s inherit their microbiome from their mother. It’s now thought that an imbalance of a mother’s microbes during birth may impact on baby’s immune system in early life, and possibly affect the child’s future health.

Probiotics in pregnancy can help optimise the gut microbiome and increase the balance of beneficial bacteria present during both birth and breastfeeding. This will help the newborn baby populate with their own beneficial microbes and have a more robust immune system and better digestion.

Optimising the gut microbiome with the help of probiotics during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester, may help to lower a baby’s risk of-

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Thrush
  • Colic
  • Eczema
  • Obesity
  • Food sensitivities
  • Diarrhoea

Quite the list!

Probiotic Supplements 

There are many different options for probiotics, but no one probiotic will fit all needs. It’s best to pick out what works best for you with the guidance of your health care practitioner and nutritionist.

Foods Containing Probiotics

There are many different options for probiotics, but no one probiotic will fit all needs. It’s best to pick out what works best for you with the guidance of your health care practitioner and nutritionist.

Whilst probiotic supplements are a great option, many foods rich in probiotics are incredibly beneficial and tasty!

Traditionally fermented foods have been around for years, and some, though not all, are particularly rich in probiotics.

Food options offering beneficial bacteria include-

  • Kefir (some)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso Paste
  • Pickles
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Some yoghurts

There’s often some confusion over which fermented foods contain probiotics/ live cultures, and here are some that don’t offer these benefits-

  • Sourdough bread
  • Beer
  • Tempeh
  • Wine
  • Chocolate… damn!

A probiotic supplement is undoubtedly convenient, but these fermented foods also have compelling advantages.

How to Choose Fermented Foods

Depending on where you live, it may not be easy to find quality fermented foods. If these are not familiar foods for you, it can take some time to research and find the best place that stocks them. 

Here are a few tips for finding quality fermented foods:

  • Choose clean, sustainable, and organic whenever possible. Check the label for added ingredients like sugar, dyes, and other additives. 
  • Choose unpasteurised whenever possible.
  • Look for fermented vegetables that are described as Lacto fermented. These are found in the refrigerated section of your grocery store, not off the shelf.
  • Look for organic, plain fermented dairy and non-dairy yoghurts and kefirs.

New to Probiotics

When introducing fermented foods, start very slowly and increase them gradually.

Planning a Pregnancy?

If you’re trying to conceive and would like even more tips to prepare your body for pregnancy, download my FREE Planning Your Pregnancy Guide today. It includes 12 Top Nutrition & Lifestyle Tips AND a 3-day-preconception meal plan.

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