Mothers have brought life into this world by carrying all of us inside their wombs with care and love. Today, we will be looking at the beginning of motherhood — pregnancy. Did you know that newborns receive their microbiome from their mother during childbirth? Yes, you read that right, during childbirth! Therefore, the health of a mother’s gut flora is important for her child to have a healthy gut microbiome too.
The Maternal Microbiome During Pregnancy
A highly diverse gut microbiome keeps the immune system strong and stable. So that should mean the bacterial diversity in the vagina is highly diverse as well, right? Interestingly, pregnant women have been shown to have low vaginal bacterial diversity, with an increasing number of specific bacteria such as Lactobacilli. This is to maintain a low pH during gestation – this in turn prevents harmful bacteria from entering and infecting the amniotic fluid, placenta, and of course the fetus.
However, an imbalance due to low lactobacilli may result in the overgrowth of various other microbes such as viruses and fungi. This eventually leads to vaginal inflammation called bacterial vaginosis (BV). This imbalance is also associated with a higher risk of issues like post-abortal infection, miscarriage, and preterm birth. Studies also have found that children born prematurely due to BV had higher rates of developing disorders like cardiovascular disorders.
The microbial community in the vagina is not independent of the maternal gut. Many bacteria like the Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacteria, for instance, are shared between the rectum and the vagina. Hence, it is important that the mother has good gut health, as her gut health impacts the health of her vaginal and gut microbiome.
Gut Microbiome Alteration and Metabolic Changes
The maternal gut microbiome diversity may alter from the first trimester of pregnancy to the third, regardless of health status. Additionally, it has been observed that children grow to have similar gut microbiomes to the mothers’ gut flora in their first trimester.
A study conducted by Koren et al. (2012) found that when the gut microbiome of pregnant mothers in their third trimester was transplanted into mice, these mice gained weight. In contrast, this was not found in mice that were transferred to the gut microbiome from pregnant mothers in the first trimester. Thus, it implies that the capacity to harvest more energy was increased from the first trimester to the third trimester to support fetal development.
Interestingly, most of these microbiota changes would increase the risks of type 2 diabetes in nonpregnant individuals, but such changes are normal in pregnancy. The metabolic change due to the shift in gut microbiome promotes energy storage in fat tissue to help the fetus grow. Although it is beneficial for this metabolism change to occur, it is of course still important for mothers to continue eating healthy food to keep their baby healthy.
Above all, the best way to maintain your gut health is by eating gut-friendly food. Here are some recommended foods that can benefit both mothers and their baby.
Foods with a high folic acid content are recommended for pregnant mothers. Folic acid is important for the growth of cells and for reducing the risks of birth defects. Foods in the legume family are highly nutritious and rich in folic acid. These consist of plants with pods or seeds inside. Common food items with legumes include lentils, peas, beans, and peanuts.
Pregnant mothers need more calcium than regular individuals. Yoghurt or greek yoghurt especially contains high amounts of calcium that can benefit mothers and are packed with probiotics that boost your gut health. Furthermore, it is also high in vitamin B and zinc. We recommend unsweetened yoghurt for the maximum benefits! On the other hand, note that homemade yoghurt is more prone to being contaminated so it is best to buy commercially made yoghurt.
The avocado is easily attainable and simple to eat. Moreover, they have a variety of nutrients good for pregnant mothers. Avocados are high in fibre and contain healthy fats and vitamins. In addition, they are also rich in antioxidants to help protect against cellular damage and provide other health benefits. Certainly, incorporating these tasty fruits into your meals will give you a happy and healthy gut!
Mothers go through many changes during pregnancy for the sake of their child, whether it be physical changes or bacterial changes inside the body. This Mother’s Day, why not thank your mother by getting the BIO & ME gut health test kit? This test kit not only analyses your gut microbiota – it also gives deep insights into your gut and overall health.