Pregnant women are often encouraged to take probiotics to benefit baby as well as themselves. Many do, but most don’t.
Researchers in the Netherlands mined data from a large ongoing prospective birth cohort study called Wheezing Illnesses Study Leidsche Rijn (WHISTLER) study. Nicole Rutten and colleagues published their results entitled Maternal use of probiotics during pregnancy and effects on their offspring’s health in an unselected population in the European Journal of Pediatrics online in August of 2015.
Were there differences between mothers who chose to use probiotics and those who did not?
Only 341 out of 2491 (13.7 %) mothers reported use of probiotics during pregnancy.
- There were NO differences in maternal features including gestation, age, ethnicity and education between users and non-users.
- BUT, there were characteristics of the users which stood out: these women were more likely to use homeopathic products and were more likely to have a history of smoking tobacco.
What did the researchers make of this interesting result? “The use of probiotics or other health-related products without doctor’s prescription during pregnancy is associated with and might point to compensation for types of less favourable behaviour.”
Still, probiotic use appears low. There is ample suggestion that improvement of maternal microbiota may lead to relief of gastrointestinal distress as well a reduction in the infant’s risk of developing atopic dermatitis and allergies. In addition, growth of fetus and newborn may also be enhanced.
The authors also assert that a review of the literature reveals that use of probiotics– strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium—“for a limited period of time during (late) pregnancy appears to be low risk, as it does not increase the rate of adverse pregnancy outcomes and seems to be well tolerated.”