Gut flora before and during pregnancy is important to the health of the foetus. Poor gut health is increasingly being linked to several health problems in babies, so diet plays an important role before and during pregnancy
Gut instinct: a study in good maternal health
We’ve all heard the term “healthy mother, healthy baby” and that’s true in all regards, including the maternal gut flora. Studies have found that the maternal microbiome during pregnancy has startling implications for your baby’s health and may be linked to preterm birth, problems in pregnancy such as preeclampsia and gestational hypertension, and gestational weight gain (The Maternal Microbiome and Pregnancy Outcomes that Impact Infant Health: A Review, Dunlop A et al, Adv Neonatal Care, Dec 2015).
How does your gut flora affect your baby?
During pregnancy your gut microbiome contributes to your baby’s overall health. That’s because your microbiome is the source for your baby’s microbiome. The nutrients and energy your baby needs are extracted from the food you eat, which in turn produce metabolites that are important for protecting against harmful microbes and for promoting your baby’s immune function.
The composition of your intestinal flora is therefore crucial. Poor gut health may contribute to a host of problems, including preterm birth, and there is a growing body of evidence that the maternal microbiome may contribute to a rise in allergies and asthma. While more research is needed into how gut flora during pregnancy affects your baby’s developing immune system we do know that their intestinal bacteria shape their overall health, and that your gut health is important to your baby’s overall development.
Maintain good gut health before and during pregnancy
If your gut microbiome is healthy it stands to reason that your baby will benefit. The first goal should be to have a healthy gut environment before your pregnancy. Bear in mind that during your pregnancy the microbes in your gut will become less diverse and the good bacteria will decline, so as you go through your pregnancy you need to be doing what you can to maintaining good gut flora.
The importance of diet for your baby’s health
Since weight plays an important role in your baby’s health, you want to try to enter pregnancy in good shape and avoid excessive gains, since that can contribute to a larger-than-normal baby. An above average weight baby can complicate delivery, lead to high levels of insulin in your baby’s body, and increase the risk of metabolic disorders.
Steps you can take to ensure healthy gut microbiome before and during pregnancy include eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, eating high-quality meats and good fats, and making sure you’re getting probiotics and prebiotics through the foods you eat or through supplements. Another step you may consider, especially if your risk factors are high, is discussing gut health with a professional. If you think this may be an issue for you please come and discuss this with me.