Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is essential during all stages of life. The composition and balance of microbes in your digestive tract can significantly impact how you feel and how healthy you are. But specific physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy can change your microbiome and potentially cause unpleasant symptoms.
To ensure you enjoy the healthiest pregnancy possible (for the sake of both you and your baby), paying close attention to your gut health is essential. Here’s what you should understand about the microbiome and pregnancy.
What Is the Role of the Microbiome During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, the role of the microbiome is to help support fetal development. Additionally, the health of the microbiomes in the mother’s vagina and milk is connected to the early microbiome colonization in infants. In short, the mother’s microbiome’s health can directly impact her growing baby’s health.
Does Pregnancy Affect the Microbiome
Pregnancy is a unique and delicate process during which a woman’s body goes through many different changes. These changes are designed to help support a growing fetus but may not always go as planned. For example, the microbiome during pregnancy can undergo significant changes. Sometimes, the microbiome can become imbalanced, potentially leading to complex problems. Some of the more common pregnancy complications related to gut microbiome changes include:
- Digestive disorders
- Gestational diabetes
- Autoimmune diseases
To avoid these unpleasant and scary conditions, it’s crucial to ensure you’re giving your gut the attention it deserves during pregnancy. Though many women experience cravings for sweets and heavily processed foods during pregnancy, it’s essential to avoid these foods and eat more whole foods instead.
How Can I Improve My Gut During Pregnancy
If you’ve noticed some common signs you may have poor gut health, there are ways to improve it during pregnancy and beyond. Here are a few suggestions.
- Take probiotics throughout your pregnancy
- Eat a healthy diet with whole foods and avoid sugary and processed foods
- Add fermented foods to your diet (such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir)
- Exercise regularly
- Get adequate sleep at night
Taking care of yourself during pregnancy is so important. If you think about it, you’re not just taking care of one person (yourself) but also the growing baby inside you. You’re both worth the effort.
Benefits of Probiotics During Pregnancy
You may be the type of person who doesn’t like to take supplements unless you have to. You might also be wary about taking anything during pregnancy, which is a reasonable frame of mind. But probiotics are some of the gentlest supplements to support you and your baby’s health. Here are just a few of the benefits you can experience by taking probiotics during pregnancy:
- Improved bowel movement regularity
- Improved skin health
- Decreased risk of inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome
- Improved immune function
- Reduced likelihood of bacterial vaginosis
Additionally, by taking probiotics, you can increase the likelihood of your new baby developing a healthy gut microbiome early in life. Don’t forget to boost the benefits of your probiotics by taking prebiotics as well. These are plant fibers that stimulate healthy bacterial growth in the digestive tract. You can take them as supplements, but they are naturally found in many healthy foods.
Many vegetables and fruits are rich in prebiotics (mainly vegetables and fruits that contain a lot of fiber and other complex carbohydrates). Eating more of these foods will help you maintain a healthy microbiome during pregnancy.