Microbiome part 2: Pregnancy, postpartum and important info when choosing probiotics

If you haven’t yet, check out Microbiome part 1: background and preconception, which sets the foundation of this post.

It used to be thought that a baby grew in a sterile environment. However, the placenta and amniotic fluid also harbour their own microbial communities which help colonise a babies gut prior to birth. During pregnancy a woman’s vagina and intestines are responsible for vertical transmission of bacteria to their baby. Which is why it’s important to optimise your own microbiome during pregnancy, as it has a correlation between pregnancy complications and has an impact on the benefits you can pass on to your baby. It’s suspected that an adult’s microbiome is largely determined during infancy due to how they were born and fed.

Birth is a really important microbiome priming moment. It’s a first in best dressed scenario, meaning whatever bacteria touches the baby first is what colonises their skin and ultimately lays down the foundations of their immune system and long-term health. Ideally this occurs through vaginal birth, immediate skin to skin contact, early breastfeeding of colostrum and avoiding the use of formula and antibiotics. Hospitals and staff also carry bacteria, with hospitals housing many antibiotic resistance strains. Mode of birth plays a crucial role in seeding your baby’s microbiome. With a substantial difference between the microbiome of vaginal and caesarean born babies, with differences observed into childhood. Due to the role of the microbiome in metabolism, one study found that caesarean born babies had a 46% higher chance of obesity later in life. Adequately preparing for your birth can help you reduce your likelihood of having and unnecessary caesarean. We offer a range of services which you can check out Here to prepare for the birth you desire.

So, how can your microbiome effect impact your pregnancy?

Digestive issues:
Hormones of pregnancy can play havoc on digestion, with constipation being a common pregnancy complaint. Gut dysbiosis can lead to increased permeability, inflammation, allergies and food intolerance, auto-immune responses, discomfort, loose stool, constipation, foggy brain. These have flow on effects for healthy conception and pregnancy.

Immune system: During pregnancy you experience a natural state of immune suppression in order to avoid your body seeing your baby as something foreign. Good bacterial growth helps to reduce the permeability of the gut keeping it strong and resistant to invasion of pathogens, inflammatory and allergic responses and pathogenic infections. Check out my store Here which has many immune supporting products to support your immune health.

Gestational diabetes: Our microbiome plays influence over our insulin and blood glucose regulation and weight metabolism. Stress also influences our blood glucose levels and a healthy microbiome can influence our mood through the production of neurotransmitters.

Caesarean birth: During surgery to reduce the risk of infection, women are administered a large dose of prophylactic antibiotics. It is important afterwards to support the regrowth of your microbiome. Antibiotics can disrupt your microbiome for up to 4yrs, with some never recovering. Impacting your microbiome also impacts the microbiome that you pass on to your baby. You can support your baby’s microbiome through breastfeeding, mums who have had caesareans have extra challenges breastfeeding and their babies are more likely to receive formula. Prepare yourself for a successful breastfeeding journey by booking a breastfeeding session with us Here. Another way to increase your baby’s microbiome is through skin to skin contact. Which is something you can do at any time, not just after birth.

Common pregnancy complaints: Thrush, foggy brain, bloating, thyroid function, constipation, pre-eclampsia, urinary tract infections, fluctuating blood glucose levels which cause nausea and extreme hunger and mood up set.. All these things can be mitigated by supporting your microbiome.

Postpartum depression: The link between the microbiome and mental health was discussed in Part 1 of this blog series. You can’t get back your newborn period and postnatal depression can have long lasting and server implications on a woman and her family. So, if supporting your microbiome can reduce your chances of postnatal depression, it’s certainly something worth investing in. Contact us if this postnatal depression is something you are experiencing, as we can provide individualised care to support you.

Breastfeeding: A baby’s microbiome is greatly affected by the way it is fed. Formula, any amount at all, disrupts a baby’s microbiome. Colostrum has complex sugars which are indigestible to humans and are specifically present to feed certain good bacteria in a baby’s gut. Formula isn’t able to do this, it contains sugar which feeds all the bacteria and can lead to the growth of E.coli and pro-inflammatory and other harmful bacteria. This dysbiosis can contribute to allergy responses, gut issues and impacts the immune system.  Formula even diminishes the benefits of breastfeeding because of these factors. The most protective factor to breastfeeding success is having the right support. See Here to see what services we offer to support success in your breastfeeding journey.
The mother’s microbiome also has an effect on the bacteria present in their breastmilk, which then has flow on effects for your baby. When women take certain strains of probiotics, it is also present in their breastmilk and will have beneficial effects for their baby too. Probiotics during breastfeeding help to reduced painful thrush, localised infections and mastitis, all common reasons why women stop breastfeeding. Antibiotics are not always necessary for mastitis and studies have found probiotics as an effective treatment, with women even reporting lower levels of pain compared to those treated with antibiotics. Recurrent mastitis is also commonly caused by a poor latch and milk drainage as well as a number of other factors. We can help you with 1:1 breastfeeding support Here or contact us to learn more about the probiotics which will best benefit you for breastfeeding.

Antibiotics: Between GBS, prolonged rupture of membranes, infections and caesarean sections, over 40% of women and ultimately babies, are being given antibiotics during birth. These disruptions in babies microbiome have been studied, with differences noted into childhood. Breastfeeding helps to mitigate some of the dysbiosis. Through women supporting their own microbiome with the use of the right probiotics, benefits will flow on to breastfed babies. If your baby is not breast fed, they would benefit from receiving probiotics as well.

Health of your baby: Probiotics during the last trimester of pregnancy have been found to reduce eczema and allergies in infants and obesity later in life.

The benefits and effectiveness of probiotics to address a certain issue or support a certain system are dependent on taking the right strain. Not all probiotic strains are the same and different specific strains occupy and are helpful indifferent areas around the body.  Generally, only the genus and species are listed on the labels of over the counter probiotics and the most important determining factor is the strain. So, to incur the most benefits and make sure you’re investing in (because we all know they are a decent but totally worthwhile financial investment), you need to purchase the right ones!

If you’re still here, I thank you! Apologies for this post being a bit of an overwhelm, the world of probiotics is an impressive but complex one and this post has only just touched the surface. As you could probably tell, I am highly passionate about the health possibilities of probiotics. So, if you’d like to experience the benefits, to their ultimate potential, get in touch.

Collado, M., Rautava, S., Aakko, J., Isolauri, E. & Salminen, S. (2016). Human gut colonization may be initiated in utero by distinct microbial communities in the placenta and amniotic fluid. Scientific Reports, 6. doi: 10.1038/srep23129
Azad, M., Konya, T., Persaud, R., Guttman, D., Chari. R …the CHILD Study Investigators. (2015). Impact of maternal intrapartum antibiotics, method of birth and breastfeeding on gut microbiota during the first year of life: a prospective cohort study. BJOG An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 123(6)983 – 993. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.13601
Mueller, N., Bakacs, E., Combellick, J., Grigoryan, Z. & Dominguez-Bello, M. (2015). The infant microbiome development: mom matters. Trends in Molecular medicine, 21(2), 109-117.  https://www-clinicalkey-com-au.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/#!/content/1-s2.0-S1471491414002160 
Parletta, N. (2014). Breastfeeding and child neurodevelopment – a role for gut microbiota [Commentary]. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 56(2), 101-102. 
Microbirth school course content- pregnancy and the infant microbiome.

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