Every mother wants to do what’s best for their baby. This journey starts from the moment a woman finds out that there is a tiny human growing inside her. Suddenly her world revolves around this new life, effecting every decision that she makes from this point forward.
One of the first decisions to be made is that of what to put into her body on a daily basis. Nutrition plays a huge role in the overall health of a woman’s pregnancy. One nutritional component that has been found to have benefits for the infant is the consumption of probiotics during pregnancy.
In a study conducted by Randi Bertelsen, PhD, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, it was found that when mothers ate probiotic enhanced dairy products while pregnant, their children were less likely to develop eczema and nasal allergies during infancy and toddlerhood. Specifically, mothers who consumed milk and yogurt fortified with probiotic bacteria, were found to lower the risk of atopic dermatitis in infants at 6 months by 7% and the risk of rhino conjunctivitis at ages 18-36 months by 12%.
Although previous studies have been conducted to show similar results, evidence from these studies has been questionable. With The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, results offer an increased level of significance and reliability. It was a large, ongoing observational study that enrolled 108,000 pregnant women and their children for over 9 years. The risks were adjusted to control for maternal factors including age, education, smoking status, body mass index at conception, dietary fiber intake, breastfeeding, parity and history of asthma and allergy, as well as infant gender and type of delivery.
It was noted that children born vaginally versus C-section were more likely to see the benefits of probiotics consumed during pregnancy. Although the study mentioned a possible confounding variable to be that more women delivered vaginally than by C-section. One theory presented by Bertelsen however, is that newborns receive an inoculation of bacteria at birth from the mother’s vaginal flora during normal delivery, which does not occur with C-section.
Also, Bertelsen noted that in previous studies, breastfeeding was found to be another route that the intake of probiotics could affect infants. Probiotic bacteria consumed by mothers can make their way into breast milk and have been found to increase interleukin-10 levels. This in turn could decrease the allergic reactions in breastfed infants.
Bertelsen also mentioned that the colonization of exogenous probiotic bacteria is not permanent, and the protective effect in children may not last beyond 18-36 months. Although the matter of whether it can be maintained by continued probiotic administration remains unclear, it seems that the benefits could be significant.
Sources: “Probiotics in Pregnancy Cut Allergies in Tots” byJohn Gever , Senior Editor, MedPage Today. Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse .