When I’m trying to get to the root cause of anyone’s digestive or gut problems, I always want to know about their antibiotic history because of the detrimental impact antibiotics, especially those taken in early life, can have on the gut microbiome This is no different when I receive enquiries from mothers worried about their children’s digestive health; I always ask for details about the antibiotic history of their children. I also ask if they themselves took antibiotics when pregnant and/or breastfeeding.
Research shows that antibiotics can pass through the placenta to the developing baby, and they can also affect the baby’s developing gut microbiome via breast milk. It’s very important that the pros and cons of taking antibiotics during pregnancy are carefully considered and that the ‘narrowest’ of antibiotics are used, as opposed to broad-spectrum antibiotics, to reduce the collateral damage to the beneficial gut bacteria.
You can read the science behind the effects of taking antibiotics during pregnancy here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4911692/.
The earlier in life you are exposed to antibiotics, the greater the risk of developing digestive and/or bowel problems. You can read more about this connection in my blog post ‘Pregnancy, antibiotics and baby’s immune system’: https://justfortummies.co.uk/pregnancy-antibiotics-and-babys-immune-system/.
Benefits of taking probiotics during pregnancy
During pregnancy, hormones like oestrogen and progesterone increase, bringing about many physical changes. These increases can also alter the gut microbiome, which likely affects the digestive system functions and causes unwanted symptoms like nausea, vomiting and constipation.
Far from causing harm, probiotics taken during pregnancy have a lot of benefits for both mother and baby. Experts used to think that babies lived in a sterile environment and weren’t inoculated with bacteria until emerging into the world. Now we know the baby ingests bacteria from amniotic fluid, there’s healthy bacteria in cord blood and in meconium (baby’s first poo).
Taking a probiotic is a step in the right direction to support the immunity of both mother and baby. In fact, many studies have found adding probiotics to the mother’s supplement regimen before conception has even greater benefits for the baby. Studies show mothers who increase their probiotic intake during pregnancy can reduce their child’s risk of allergies by as much as 50 percent and specifically in eczema, asthma, and atopic dermatitis. Mum also benefits by decreasing her risk of colds and respiratory infection.
Pregnant women are more susceptible to vaginal and yeast infections than non-pregnant women. Taking probiotics can help preserve the balance of the vaginal microbiome, may prevent the occurrence of infections, and can reduce the need for antibiotics to treat vaginal infections.
Recommended dosage of probiotics
I usually recommend one of my Live Bacteria probiotic capsules before breakfast and one before bed, with a small glass of water, not with hot drinks. If your child is under 2, you can give them Optibac probiotic drops/powder sachets; for children above the age of 2, just open one of my Live Bacteria capsules and sprinkle the powder into a cold drink or mix into yoghurt or ice cream.
If you have any questions about probiotics or any other digestive supplements, feel free to get in touch.