She was pleasantly surprised when her eczema, a skin condition with periodic outbreaks of red and itchy rashes, improved remarkably after she was given probiotics. Q, 30, a first-time mum was in her first trimester of pregnancy. She noticed that the frequency of flare-ups was reduced and the intensity of itchiness was much less. She had since cut down the usage of moisturizer and steroid creams prescribed by her dermatologist.
What are probiotics?
Our body contains trillions of microorganisms or microbes. These microbes are composed of bacteria, fungi (yeasts), viruses and protozoa. Probiotics are good microbes that reside mainly in the gut (mostly large intestines). Other locations include: mouth, urinary tract, skin, vagina and milk. They keep our body healthy by fighting off bad microbes and supporting our immune system. They also help digest food, destroy disease-causing cells and produce vitamins.
Common probiotics are two groups of bacteria called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and fungi, Saccharomyces boulardii. Probiotics can also be found in foods like yogurt, kefir, tempeh, and kombucha. They can thus be taken as nutritional supplements. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health of the USA, probiotics are one of the most commonly consumed dietary supplements for adults.
What are the benefits of taking probiotics in pregnancy?
Studies have shown that probiotics confer considerable health benefits to pregnant mothers and the newborn by reducing the incidence of some obstetrical complications. These include:
Eczema: Probiotic supplements have been found to significantly reduce the incidence of eczema during pregnancy in mothers as well as babies. The World Allergy Organization recommends probiotic use in pregnancy and infants with a family history of allergic disease.
Gut health: Taking probiotics during pregnancy may improve gut bacteria composition and digestive health and may help reduce symptoms of nausea, vomiting and constipation.
Gestational obesity: Maternal obesity and excessive weight gain during pregnancy, are related to increased obstetrical complications. Studies have shown that in obese mums and in those who put on a lot of weight during pregnancy, there is an imbalance of the microbes in the intestine with a reduction of good bacteria. Probiotics may correct the imbalance and help rectify the metabolic disorder.
Gestational Diabetes: Research studies have found that the use of probiotics during pregnancy reduced blood sugar and insulin levels. Treatment with probiotics during pregnancy may reduce the risk of development of gestational diabetes, especially in women over the age of 35 years and those who previously had the condition.
Premature birth: A 2020 review found that the length of pregnancy was significantly longer in those taking probiotic supplements, compared with those receiving placebo treatments. Scientists also found that those who took probiotics had a significantly reduced risk of death from necrotizing fasciitis, a rare but life-threatening infection that can occur during pregnancy.
Pre-eclampsia: Imbalance of gut microbe has been implicated in pre-eclampsia with dominance of bad bacteria. Administration of probiotics may reduce the risk.
Mental health: There is limited evidence that probiotics may reduce depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after delivery.
Are probiotics safe?
Recent studies have found that probiotics are safe when given during pregnancy and breastfeeding. There have been no adverse outcomes to both the mother and the baby. Q was happy to continue consuming the probiotics and is waiting for the new arrival in a few months’ time.