The maternal microbiome has a significant impact on the development of an infant’s microbiome. As you'll learn in this article, this in turn can influence a range of health outcomes for the newborn infant including immune and nervous system development. In addition, placing an emphasis on microbiome health results in clinical benefits for the mother.
While we know that an infants gut microbiome will be influenced by a range of factors including delivery mode (cesarean delivery vs. vaginal delivery), milk supply (breast milk vs. formula feeding), antibiotic usage and the timing of weaning from milk to solid foods, the evidence for supporting mother's microbiome is absolutely there.
What Does Maternal Gut Microbiome Health Impact?
Immune system development in children
We know that the first few months of life are critical to the infants developing immune system. The presence of a varied and healthy gut microbiota population at birth and in the first few months of an infant’s life is thought to be a significant factor in this process. Many well conducted studies indicate that supplementing with specific probiotic strains pre and post-birth can enhance immune system development reducing the likelihood of conditions including (but not limited to) eczema and food allergies.
Reduced risk of behavioural complaints
There is evidence of early deficiencies in specific probiotic strains (Bifidobacteria spp) in those with ADHD or ASD. It's thought that this could be associated with a lack of breastfeeding, given breast milk is such a crucial point of access to bifidobacterium for the infant. If breast feeding isn't an option then there are other means of supplying these bacteria to your infant, don't worry!
Enhanced blood glucose control
About the worst outcome to result from poor blood glucose control during pregnancy is the development of Gestational Diabetes. In saying that, cravings and stable energy are two very valuable benefits of good blood glucose control. A randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trial from 2009 followed 256 normoglycaemic pregnant women from first trimester until 12 months postpartum. The results showed that the group receiving specific probiotic strains (LGG® and BB-12®) and nutritional counselling throughout pregnancy had better glucose tolerance during pregnancy and in the year following. These changes were considered significant and demonstrate the metabolic benefits to be gained by the mother simply be supplementing with probiotics while pregnant.
Three Steps For a Mother-to-be:
1. Educate yourself: If you're not already familiar with the foundations of gut health then take a quick refresher. The process of enhancing maternal microbiome health begins months before actually conceiving so don't get started with this now!
2. Test and treat: If you have a history of eczema, food allergy, IBS, parasites, SIBO or digestive complaints then this step is especially important. In clinic however, I offer testing to almost all of my preconception clients, regardless of gut health history, because the peace of mind is often wanted. Just like the nutrient testing outlined in Part i of this series, I recommend conducting microbiome testing at least six months prior to TTC to allow time for any required treatment to take place. These tests aren't covered by Medicare so contact me if you'd like to arrange testing.
3. Supplement: In my opinion, based on the research now available, a good preconception, pregnancy and postpartum supplement regime must contain mother and baby specific probiotics. The probiotics I prescribe to my clients aren't available over the counter so you're likely to require tailored guidance to get started.
I’m taking new clients in the clinic and virtually so please reach out if you'd like my support in preparing your gut microbiome health for conception or tailoring your supplement regime. Book a Complimentary 15-minute Discovery Call to get started.
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Tanaka M, Nakayama J. Development of the gut microbiota in infancy and its impact on health in later life. Allergol Int. 2017;66(4):515-522. DOI:10.1016/j.alit.2017.07.010
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Laitinen K, Poussa T, Isolauri E; Nutrition, Allergy, Mucosal Immunology and Intestinal Microbiota Group. Probiotics and dietary counselling contribute to glucose regulation during and after pregnancy: a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 2009;101(11):1679-1687. doi:10.1017/S0007114508111461
Pärtty A, Kalliomäki M, Wacklin P, Salminen S, Isolauri E. A possible link between early probiotic intervention and the risk of neuropsychiatric disorders later in childhood: a randomized trial. Pediatr Res. 2015;77(6):823-828. doi:10.1038/pr.2015.51