Pregnant women eating yogurt with probiotics to help with morning sickness

Oh Baby! Probiotics Help with Morning Sickness

Oh Baby! Probiotics Help with Morning Sickness

Scientifically reviewed by: Michael A. Smith, MD

Pregnancy can be full of joyful moments in the anticipation of a new baby, but unfortunately, it can also come with some less-than-joyful parts as well, with morning sickness high up on the list.

But, a December 2021 study published by researchers from the University of California, Davis, has found that probiotics are a game changer for moms-to-be who find themselves green at the gills on the daily.

After receiving a mix of 10 Lactobacillus probiotic strains and one Bifidobacterium strain over a 16-day period, the low-risk pregnant women in the study, who all had been experiencing nausea and other digestive system complaints, reported a 16% reduction in nausea and a 33% reduction in vomiting episodes.

"This research provides key insights about the impact of gut microbes on gastrointestinal function during pregnancy," the study's authors wrote in in the journal Nutrients. "Our gut microbiota explains why we are what we eat, and why bacteria-generated metabolites and products have a huge impact on our health."

What is morning sickness?

Morning sickness is the incidence of nausea and vomiting that affects up to 85% of all pregnant women. During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone levels increase, and these hormonal changes can cause some adverse effects, such as morning sickness.

And don't let the name fool you: morning sickness does not discriminate by time of day. It can occur morning or night, and while it's most prevalent in the first trimester during early pregnancy, it can occur at any stage of pregnancy.

Most of the time, morning sickness is relatively mild. But in some cases, it can be more severe. As the lead author of the UC Davis study, Albert T. Liu, stated, "Nausea, vomiting and constipation during pregnancy can significantly diminish the quality of patients' lives. Once nausea and vomiting during pregnancy progress, they can become difficult to control, and sometimes the patient even needs to be hospitalized."

In some rare cases, morning sickness can even progress to a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG, where the symptoms of morning sickness can cause severe dehydration and result in loss of pre-pregnancy body weight.

What helps with morning sickness?

When faced with this uncomfortable experience, most pregnant women turn to at-home remedies (always remember to consult with your doctor before trying any at-home remedies!), including sipping stomach calming tea or taking anti-nausea medication to help provide some relief. Many of these teas include ginger, a spice that has been used as part of at-home remedies for thousands of years.

According to studies, ginger may offer some relief for those experiencing morning sickness. In fact, in one study comparing the intake of ginger and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) on first trimester nausea and vomiting, the researchers found that ginger is more effective than placebo for the treatment of nausea and is comparable to vitamin B6 intake in effectiveness for nausea and distress of vomit.

Since ginger tea isn't exactly everyone's cup of tea, fortunately, other nutrients like probiotics may help.

Do probiotics help with morning sickness?

Probiotics have a reputation for keeping the good bacteria in your gut and the bad bacteria out. They are most commonly known for supporting gut health, helping maintain a healthy microbiome and promoting healthy gastrointestinal function, but depending on the strain, they can have a wide variety of applications that can promote whole-body health. There are certain strains that can support almost every single part of the body, from heart health to the immune system.

The versatility of probiotics extends to the strain taken by the pregnant women in the UC Davis study: Lactobacillus. Study participants received 10 Lactobacillus probiotic strains, including L. plantarum 299v, L. bulgaricus Lb-87, L. paracasei DSM 13434, L. plantarum DSM 15312, L. salivarius Ls-33, L. brevis Lbr-35, L. acidophilus La-14, L. paracasei Lpc-37, and L. casei Lc-11, as well as one Bifidobacterium strain, B. lactis Bl-04.

After taking these probiotics in a cycle of 6 days on, 2 days off, and repeated for two cycles, for a total of 16 days, the women not only had reduced morning sickness, but overall improved quality of life. Why? "Probiotics likely produce free bile acids to facilitate intestinal mobility and metabolism," the authors hypothesized.

Is it okay to take probiotics while pregnant?

Probiotics are safe for pregnant women. While it was previously speculated that there could be risks of preterm birth in women taking any combination of probiotics, prebiotics or synbiotics, a study concluded that taking probiotics or prebiotics during pregnancy produced no adverse effects and neither decreased or increased risk of preterm birth or other infant and maternal outcomes.

In fact, some research suggests there are benefits to probiotics during pregnancy that extend beyond morning sickness.

One study examined the use of the Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 strain for improving fasting glucose levels and avoiding the incidence of gestational diabetes. Women given the HN001 strain were analyzed for lipids, insulin, glucose and bile acids, and it was found that they had lower fasting glucose levels compared to placebo, as well as lower fasting bile acids.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that help feed the beneficial microorganisms in your gut and help them thrive. They can therefore work synergistically with probiotics, so if you're taking a probiotic, it's probably a good idea to take a prebiotic as well to maintain your healthy gut microbiome as well as help the probiotic work optimally.

Not only are prebiotics a great complement to probiotics, recent studies have shown that they also help support optimal sleep quality, something that may be elusive to pregnant women—especially those impacted by morning sickness.



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