Are probiotics safe for pregnant and breastfeeding moms?

Are probiotics safe for pregnant and breastfeeding moms?

  • Kids' Health

  • By Desiree Nielsen, Registered Dietitian

    Pregnancy is a journey, one filled with hope, joy, nausea and nerves. When I was pregnant with my first child, I divided my worldview into things that were safe for baby and not safe for baby. Out went the Friday night wine, the manicures and brunches topped with hollandaise sauce. In came early bedtime, rooibos tea and high protein green smoothies.

    Pregnancy nutrition typically revolves around a long list of don’ts – but beyond taking a prenatal vitamin, there isn’t a lot of extra guidance on what to do. For example, eating at least 70 grams of protein to help you build a new life; eating 150g of cooked fish per week to take enough omega-3 DHA, that supports your child’s developing nervous system.

    In addition to the following the usual nutrition guidelines (and eating plenty of gummy bears, to be honest!), I took Bio-K+ probiotics throughout both of my pregnancies and feel that it was an important tool for the health of my – and my growing child’s  –  microbiome during this time of change. So you might be wondering…are probiotics a good idea? And, are they safe?


    Why take probiotics in pregnancy

    Amongst the daily transformations taking place in your body, two really stand out: the change to a woman’s immune system, and the resulting inflammation, and the shifts in our digestive system.

    As a woman’s pregnancy progresses, the immune system changes to become more tolerant of this new little life growing inside of us1,2. Which also means that we are more at risk to foodborne illness (hence, the list of don’ts!) and other infection2. Avoiding high-risk foods like deli meats, steering clear of others who are sick and washing hands frequently is important to keep yourself well. In addition, these changes find inflammation increased in the body. This is why daily flossing is important…and why probiotics can really help3.

    The vaginal canal is home to more than 1 billion bacteria; it is thought that these bacteria are important for immune regulation and can have an impact on pregnancy outcomes1. In addition, we know from a more global perspective that having a balanced microbiome supports the optimal function of the immune system. In pregnancy, we tend to see alterations in the microbiome of the mouth, gut and vaginal canal that are meant to support a healthy pregnancy; however, there is the potential for less helpful changes to occur3,4. This has been seen in early studies to be associated with high fat dietary patterns and maternal weight gain beyond recommended levels – two factors that are known to alter the microbiome4.

    Probiotics are known to help support a balanced microbiota, so given the potential for change during pregnancy, they may be supportive. Probiotic bacteria have been shown to defend against gastrointestinal infections by out-competing pathogenic bacteria and beneficially modulating the immune system.

    Now, let’s talk digestion: the hormonal shifts of pregnancy can lead to reflux, slow motility and constipation5. Hormones slow down the rate at which the stomach empties and the bowel moves…while the placenta can increase stomach acidity5. In addition to being annoying, slow motility is thought to modulate the microbiota. Taking a daily dose of Bio-K+ can help to balance the intestinal flora to ease digestion and improve its function, along with drinking plenty of water and maintaining a high fiber diet.


    Are probiotics safe in pregnancy?

    Now that we understand how probiotics might support a healthy pregnancy, comes the big question: are they safe?

    The research confirms that yes, it is safe for women to take probiotics and doing so many even support healthy outcomes for her growing child; however, it is recommended that women avoid unpasteurized fermented foods6,7. For this reason, a standardized clinically tested probiotic supplement becomes even more important. When making your choice, a proven track record of safety is critical: it’s one of the main reasons I trusted Bio-K+ probiotics for my pregnancy. Bio-K+ has over twenty years of demonstrated use at all stages of life with a proven safety record.

    When a baby is born, it is exposed to bacteria that help form the foundation of its own gut microbiome4,6. By taking a probiotic like Bio-K+, you can help ensure that you have a healthy balanced microbiome for your child to inherit. But what if your child is delivered by C-section? Research suggests that this changes the nature of baby’s first exposure to bacteria and as a result, some hospitals give baby a swab of vaginal bacteria at birth as a probiotic ‘booster’6. And taking probiotics as you breastfeed can favorably alter the microbiota of your breast milk to help support baby further6.

    Pregnancy comes with so many questions about what is best for you and your growing child. Along with eating well, moving daily and plenty of rest. Talk to your physician or midwife about whether taking a probiotic like Bio-K+ is right for you.

    Do you have any other questions about your gut health? Ask us in comments below. If you are looking to stock-up on Bio-K+, head to our store locator. For more information on Bio-K+, probiotics and digestive health, contact us, find us on Facebook and Instagram or join our community




    1. Bonney, Elizabeth A. “Immune Regulation in Pregnancy: A Matter of Perspective?”  Obstetrics and gynecology clinics of North Americavol. 43,4 (2016): 679-698.
    2. Moran, L J et al. “Nutrition and listeriosis during pregnancy: a systematic review”  Journal of nutritional sciencevol. 7 e25. 24 Sep. 2018, doi:10.1017/jns.2018.16
    3. Wu, Min, Shao-Wu Chen, and Shao-Yun Jiang. "Relationship between gingival inflammation and pregnancy." Mediators of inflammation2015 (2015).
    4. Chu, Derrick M et al. “Impact of maternal nutrition in pregnancy and lactation on offspring gut microbial composition and function”  Gut microbesvol. 7,6 (2016): 459-470.
    5. Gomes, Catarina Frias et al. “Gastrointestinal diseases during pregnancy: what does the gastroenterologist need to know?”  Annals of gastroenterologyvol. 31,4 (2018): 385-394.
    6. Baldassarre, Maria Elisabetta et al. “Rationale of Probiotic Supplementation during Pregnancy and Neonatal Period”  Nutrientsvol. 10,11 1693. 6 Nov. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10111693
    7. Jarde, Alexander et al. “Pregnancy outcomes in women taking probiotics or prebiotics: a systematic review and meta-analysis”  BMC pregnancy and childbirthvol. 18,1 14. 8 Jan. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12884-017-1629-5






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    Desiree Nielsen Registered Dietitian
    About the author
    Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian, author and host of the vvegetarian ccooking sshow, The Urban Vegetarian. Desiree takes an evidence-based, integrative approach to her dietetics work, with a focus on anti-inflammatory, plant-centredcentered nutrition and digestive health.
    View all articles by Desiree Nielsen
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