An expectant mother’s gut microbiome is critically
important to her pregnancy experience and to the future health of the newborn, making supplementation of beneficial bacteria an attractive treatment option for
Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), found in breast milk, changes in women who take probiotics.
The presence of HMOs can significantly affect the composition of the infant’s microbiome and the maturating immune system.
A recent study analysed HMOs from new mothers administered a probiotic comprising four bacterial strains from 36 weeks gestation until birth. When compared to controls, probiotics significantly increased HMO concentration, positively influencing the infant’s microbiome.
Maternal health prior to conception is crucial for optimal genetic expression, affecting the health of the next generation. An example of this is insulin secretion which increases during the later stages of pregnancy and is accompanied by a level of insulin resistance, which ensures the foetus receives adequate energy for growth and development. If insulin increases too much, this can lead to gestational diabetes and excessive weight gain. Probiotics have been shown to modulate glucose metabolism and reduce central weight gain following childbirth.
Following vaginal delivery, a newborn’s microbial landscape resembles the mother’s vaginal and/or skin microbiota, with additional organisms coming from breast milk and the surrounding environment.
Bifidobacteria accounts for approximately 95% of gut flora in exclusively breastfed infants, whereas those on formula have less bifidobacteria and lactobacillus and higher proportions of bacteroides, clostridium, streptococcus, enterobacteria and veillonella.
Infants born by caesarean section have bifidobacteria and bacteroides present, however their numbers are less abundant.
This shows that those infants who are formula fed or born by caesarian may have even greater needs.
Maternal supplementation of specific strains of probiotics during breastfeeding also reduces the likelihood of the newborn developing eczema, allergic rhinitis or asthma during the first 18 months of life, as well as experiencing fewer upper respiratory tract and ear infections.