Pregnancy and Microbiome

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The human body carries upwards of 100 TRILLION microbiota in intestines alone (1)!  We carry more of these organisms then we do human cells. As science has advanced over time, there is clearly a link between health and disease.

Concentration of microbes exists in our mouths, gut, and vagina; whether or not there is balance and harmony within these communities is up to the caregiver. Babies establish their microbiome during gestation and the mother’s lifestyle choices influences it.

Periodontal disease is associated with oral dysbiosis and is preventable (2). It’s also associated with preterm labor (3). Healthy gut microbiota can prevent gestational diabetes and again, preterm labor. And the vagina! Vaginal dysbiosis can contribute to urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginitis, both of which are risk factors for preterm labor.  

This week, I highlight suggestions for a healthy maternal microbiome.

Consume probiotic and prebiotic rich foods during pregnancy —

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Practice good oral hygiene — This extends to the caregivers partner because oral sex can transfer unwanted microbes. Signs that should prompt care include: red or swollen gums, bleeding gums when you brush, bad breath, or loose and drifting teeth (4).

  • Brush your teeth twice a day. When you brush, don’t rush

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and consider an electric one; replace it every 3-4 months

  • Floss at least once a day

  • Avoid sweets and sweetened drinks

  • Go see your dentist every 6 months

Pelvic rest. The vagina is home to over 50 microbial species and influences a baby’s health and pregnancy outcomes. Avoid multiple sex partners, frequent sexual intercourse (but lots of love), frequent episodes of receptive oral sex, douching and use of spermicides.

Destress — Chronic stress can negatively impact the microbiome. Below are some suggestions that have proven to influence our stress response in a positive way6.

  • Breathe: Try the 4 square breathing method to relieve anxiety and stress.  Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, inhale for 4 counts and so on.  Try this for 4 breaths.

  • Meditate: Youtube is free and accessible. Search for: ‘pregnancy and meditation,’ and ‘guided meditation and pregnancy.’  

  • Yoga: Youtube search ‘prenatal yoga,’ ‘yoga for pregnancy first trimester,’ and so on.  

  • Light exercise: move your body every day and in lots of ways.

A healthy, balanced and diverse microbiome is foundational in health and pregnancy.  What we do as caregivers influences the health of our baby’s. Thanks for reading and if you like the information, pass it on to your parents- to-be.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5648614/

  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41396-017-0037-1

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5557618/

  4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001957.htm

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10515826

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4460566/