How Probiotics Can Safeguard Your Newborn’s Health
Pregnancy is a time when we’re more conscious (and curious!) than ever about the miraculous happenings within our body. From obsessing over week-by-week progress emails to devouring the details from parenting books and magazines, we tend to go the extra mile to understand exactly what’s going on in our body, so we can take the necessary steps to protect and support the new life within.
But did you know there’s another part of you that requires your attention during pregnancy—one that’s teeming with ever-changing bacterial life? We’re talking about your microbiome and the trillions of microbes that live in your body, going about their daily business of supporting your immune system and helping to keep you and your child well.
In fact, the friendly flora (also called probiotics) in your body—especially the ones living in your gut—have an overwhelming impact on lifelong wellness, and tending to your microbial health when you’re expecting is one of the most important things you can do, both for yourself and to pave the path of health for your child.
What Are the Benefits of Probiotics During Pregnancy?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that play a critical role in facilitating numerous key functions in your body—from nutrient absorption and immune regulation to fending off and crowding out inhospitable microbes. We can get some probiotics from certain foods we eat, but for the vast majority of us, our ongoing exposure to a variety of lifestyle and environmental factors depletes our precious probiotic colonies at a much faster pace than our diets are replenishing them.
From our regular consumption of processed, sugary foods to antibiotics (in food or as medicine), chlorine in our water, and the frequent use of medicines like birth control, acid suppressants (PPIs), antacids, steroids, hormonal replacement therapy, and NSAIDs, our friendly flora are under constant threat. And it’s all doing a number on our immune function.
You see, nearly 80% of your immune cells are in your gut (where your beneficial microbes also live), and your immune system depends on a strong presence of good bacteria to stand guard at your gut barrier and help keep the bad guy bacteria from gaining a foothold. But pregnancy has a way of putting your immune system into underdrive, and it can be easier for the unfriendly microbes to rise up and rule the roost.
Making sure you are exposed to plenty of probiotics during pregnancy can not only help to regulate your immune system, but this simple act can have tremendous long-term benefits for both you and your child.
Your Gut Health Impacts Your Newborn
So, how exactly does the health of your gut affect your newborn? Here’s a quick breakdown of how it works: your child’s body is mostly sterile while in utero—that means very little bacteria and not much of an immune system to speak of. All of their nourishment and immunity comes from mama, so they don’t need bacteria within their digestive tract to help break down food.
During the birthing process, your baby picks up your bacteria as she makes her way through the birth canal, and these beneficial bacteria colonize in your child’s body to become her foundation of health and immunity. Once established, these colonies of microbes help to train and develop her immune system, teaching it to recognize friend from foe and how to react appropriately to all of life’s immune challenges—and the results last a lifetime.
Unfortunately, the rising epidemic of C-sections and our modern birth processes are wreaking havoc on one of the most important opportunities we have to ensure our children are equipped with the microbial tools they need to maintain a lifetime of health. The good news (because, let’s face it, you can’t always control how your baby makes her way into this world) is that skin-to-skin contact and breast milk are also potent sources of microbes for your baby.
And the best part? It all starts in your gut.
Researchers now know that a mom’s intestinal bacteria can also travel via the enteromammary pathway into her breast milk—thereby seeding her baby’s gut with microbes from her own gut—establishing the core of immunity for her baby.1 Exposure to this friendly flora during breastfeeding is one reason why breastfed babies are often healthier and less prone to fussiness (often an indication of gut discomfort) than babies who don’t have access to microbe-rich breast milk.
In fact, research shows that probiotics given during infancy (or via mom’s breast milk) can decrease crying times by more than 50%.2 If you’ve ever dealt with a fussy baby, you know that this can be life changing.
So, how do you make sure your little one inherits the very best microbes from you?
4 Simple Steps to Protect Your Gut Health
As more research surfaces about the complex world of gut health, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that probiotics might just be the prenatal vitamin’s soulmate. A proper balance of digestive flora can ease pregnancy woes (hello, regularity!), ensure the vital nutrients from your food and vitamins are readily absorbed by your body to nourish your growing baby, and lay the optimal foundation for your newborn to experience a lifetime of health and well-being.
Follow these tips for a healthy gut during pregnancy:
- Take a potent probiotic supplement. Ensuring a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria by taking a probiotic supplement throughout your pregnancy and breastfeeding can replenish and fortify the populations of good bacteria you’ll need to pass on to your baby. Hyperbiotics makes an effective, high-quality probiotic supplement called PRO-Moms, designed specifically for expecting and nursing mothers.
- Nourish with prebiotics. A multi-strain probiotic formula like PRO-Moms is a great start, but you’ll also need to make sure you are feeding your friendly flora the prebiotic fibers they need to thrive! While a diet high in whole and plant-based foods can go a long way, an organic, food-based prebiotic powder supplement can give your microbes the targeted nourishment they need to support your—and your baby’s—foundation of health.
- Stay away from microbiome depleters Do your best to bring awareness to the ingredients both in your food and in the products you use in your home and on your body. Your probiotic bacteria don’t fare well in the face of many of the substances common in our modern lives. You’ll want to pay extra close attention to labels and avoid everything from additives to emulsifiers, pesticides, artificial sweeteners, antibacterial cleaners, and antimicrobial products (common in personal care products). Similarly, only use antibiotics if absolutely necessary—just one course can alter your microbial mix for an entire year!3
- Live a gut-healthy lifestyle. Recent research has shown us that those who live active lives, get plenty of sleep each night, have low stress levels, spend time in nature and with animals, and who aren’t overly zealous with their hygiene habits have healthier and more diverse microbiomes and thus better health overall. The good news is that making slight shifts in your daily choices can go a long way towards putting you and your family on the path to a healthy gut.
As a mom, you’ll have countless opportunities to keep your kids safe as they explore the world around them and grow and develop into independent, happy, productive adults—and it starts before you even get to hold them in your arms. Prioritizing and nurturing your own microbiome while you’re pregnant is the first crucial step in safeguarding your child’s health for many years to come.
- Rodriguez, J. M. (2014). The Origin of Human Milk Bacteria: Is There a Bacterial Entero-Mammary Pathway during Late Pregnancy and Lactation? Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 5(6), 779-784. doi:10.3945/an.114.007229
- Koonce, T., Mounsey, A., Rowland, K. (2011). Colicky baby? Here’s a surprising remedy. The Journal of Family Practice, 60(1), 34-36.
- Zaura, E., Brandt, B. W., Mattos, M. J., Buijs, M. J., Caspers, M. P., Rashid, M., . . . Crielaard, W. (2015). Same Exposure but Two Radically Different Responses to Antibiotics: Resilience of the Salivary Microbiome versus Long-Term Microbial Shifts in Feces. MBio, 6(6). doi:10.1128/mbio.01693-15