Are Your Bacteria Putting You and Your Baby at Risk?
Nausea, cravings, and ridiculously vivid dreams (or nightmares) are just a few common symptoms in pregnancy.
Your body goes through so many changes throughout your pregnancy.
So it’s probably no surprise that your microbiome does as well.
Constipation, food sensitivities, bloating — all symptoms of other microbiome-influenced disorders — are usually associated with hormonal disruption and baby taking over your abdomen.
Although your hormones definitely have a hand in all of this, your microbes may actually be more to blame.
Changes to the Different Microbiomes in Moms
Although most times when we refer to the microbiome, we at Atrantil, are referring to the gut microbiome, there are actually other microbiomes in your body.
The word microbiome when broken down means:
- Micro- — extremely small
- -biome — a community of naturally occurring lifeforms.
Basically, a microbiome is a small world of organisms, typically referring to a bacterial community.
In a pregnant mom, the most important microbiomes to her and her baby are:
- The oral microbiome
- The placental microbiome
- The vaginal microbiome
- The gut microbiome
The Oral Microbiome in Pregnancy
Dental and gum health is extremely important in your pregnancy.
Women with periodontal disease are at a higher risk to have pregnancy complications and preterm birth.
Two of the main beliefs behind this are:
- Lipopolysaccharides from the periodontal bacteria may increase inflammation and production of prostaglandin (a known causative factor in preterm birth)
- A naturally occurring spread of oral bacteria to the placenta may have a role in this as well, so if those bacteria are dangerous they can cause problems in the placenta
The Placental Microbiome in Pregnancy
The placenta was always believed to be a sterile home for your baby. This meant that the first bacteria your baby ever came into contact with was through the birthing canal.
This recently has been proven to be untrue with different diagnostic tests. The placenta actually has a microbiome of its own, just with a much smaller quantity of bacteria than other microbiomes in the body.
Being that there are microbes in the placenta it is important for pregnant women to make sure they keep themselves healthy as to not increase passing potential pathogens to their baby via the placenta.
The Vaginal Microbiome in Pregnancy
In non-pregnant women, Lactobacillus is the bacterial species that primarily makes up the vaginal microbiome. When women end up with bacterial vaginosis (BV), Gardnerella vaginalis is the bacteria to blame.
Women who suffer from BV frequently tend to have a higher chance of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and potentially preterm birth.
Because women go through so many changes throughout the month, it is normal for bacterial diversities to change with those times.
During pregnancy, the vaginal community changes to support more diversity in the bacterial species of Lactobacillus, Clostridiales, Bacteroidales, and Actinomycetales.
Vaginal microbiota diversity is currently being studied to see if certain species being present or not present are linked to preterm birth, preeclampsia, and other pregnancy-related issues.
The Gut Microbiome in Pregnancy
Throughout the duration of a pregnancy, there are some extremely obvious changes going on in the abdominal area.
Giant baby pushing organs out of the way, morning sickness, constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and the list goes on and on and on.
Blame those gut microbes for some of these problems, here’s why:
Gut microbes may contribute to Hyperemesis gravidarum
Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is the worst form of morning sickness to possibly get — to the point that people who have it might be offended by it even being grouped into the same category as morning sickness.
HG is a condition where pregnant women will vomit to the point of being dehydrated and often can’t keep much of anything in their stomach.
Most women suffering from HG end up in the hospital for a period of time to replenish their body from the dehydration they experienced.
A recent study found that levels of cholecystokinin (CCK) — a signaling gut peptide — are half of what they should be in women suffering from HG.
This could be a potential lead in the future for preventing or decreasing problems with HG.
Normal levels during pregnancy are actually the same as non-pregnant people with diabetes
Yep, you read that correctly. When you are pregnant your body naturally does this and it is totally healthy!
Levels of cholesterol, glucose, leptin, insulin, and insulin resistance all increase during pregnancy to help moms body prepare and support her new little lifeform.
With each passing trimester, these levels increase — which is why monitoring for gestational diabetes (GD) is so important.
A normal rise in these numbers is perfectly healthy, but an excessive rise does happen in some women leading to GD.
Inflammatory cytokines — signaling cells that let the body know when to increase inflammation — also increase in pregnancy. It is normal for this to happen, especially during implantation and labor. These are also a marker that increases during diabetes in a non-pregnant person.
Eating fibrous foods can help to decrease unnecessary inflammation throughout your pregnancy by increasing the amount of short-chain fatty acids that are being circulated throughout your body.
Gut microbes increase gastrointestinal issues like bloating and constipation
Inflammatory cytokines are a huge part of gastrointestinal problems as well. Along with hormonal changes in the woman’s body, these increases in inflammation throughout the body can lead to dysbiosis.
It is also thought that with constipation, the increased transit time — the amount of time it takes for your food to complete traveling through the digestive tract — may be so that the mother’s body is able to extract all of the possible nutrients from the food eaten.
Since a mothers body is working so hard to prepare for baby, the energy usually used in digestion may be used for other processes which will make her body take longer to do what it needs with the food she ate.
A gastrointestinal issue that you really need to watch out for during pregnancy is leaky gut.
The excessive inflammation from a leaky gut can lead to placental issues which can possibly cause preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction.
Throughout pregnancy bacterial diversity is decreased which can lead to a lot of these inflammatory issues since anti-inflammatory byproducts from food aren’t being produced.
How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy
In order to have a healthy pregnancy and newborn you should:
- Make yourself healthy before conceiving (diet, exercise, vitamins, etc.)
- Eat a diet high in fiber, probiotics, and prebiotics.
- Reduce stress wherever possible
- Keep up with dental health
- Exercise several times a week
All of these things can decrease your chances of pregnancy problems and create a healthier baby in the long run!
What are some of your favorite ways to stay healthy during pregnancy?
Let us know in the comments below!