I’ve written about the many health benefits of probiotics before, but are they beneficial in pregnancy? More importantly, do we know if it is safe to take probiotics in pregnancy?
Probiotics are the beneficial microorganisms, usually bacteria, that are found in fermented foods and dietary supplements. The World Health Organisation suggests that probiotics taken in adequate amounts confer a health benefit. They are generally considered safe and are usually well tolerated.
However, since probiotics are living bacteria there has been some suggestion of a potential for causing infection. In fact, it is estimated that the risk of consumed probiotics entering the bloodstream is less than 1 per 1 million users. Though the risk is likely to be higher in people that are critically ill, have a compromised gut lining or those that have a suppressed immune system.
So, it is thought that the opportunity for probiotics to reach the baby’s circulation is low, and therefore it is unlikely that probiotics would cause harm in pregnancy. In fact, this was the conclusion of research published in the Journal the Canadian Family Physician.
The research looked at studies on the use of probiotics, mainly Lactobacillus species or Bifidobacterium species, or both. Some studies looked at probiotics use in the last trimester only, but others included women taking probiotics from the first trimester until the end of breastfeeding.
On the whole the studies were carried out on healthy women with uneventful pregnancies. And, the outcomes of the studies generally suggest that pregnant women taking probiotics are no more likely to have a miscarriage, and their baby was at no higher risk for malformation. There was also no significant difference in birth weight, gestational age or incidence of caesarian birth.
The conclusion of the study was that probiotics appear not to pose any safety concerns for pregnant women.