If you’re a mom-to-be, it won’t be long until your baby relies on you to provide for all of her physical and emotional needs out here in the world. But even before she makes her grand entrance, your little one needs you for so much more than just the basic nutrition, warmth, and oxygen she receives in the womb. She’s also already depending on you to help her build the robust microbiome and immune system essential for a healthy, happy life.
In the early stages of development, your baby’s immune system is like a blank page—and you have the opportunity to expose her to the variety of microorganisms that will write the story of her health as they begin to create her unique microbiome. The good news is that there are two easy and beneficial ways to start giving your baby the gift of microbial and overall wellness while you’re still expecting: prenatal probiotics and fish oil pregnancy supplements.
How Does a Mom Pass Her Microbiome to Her Baby?
As an expectant mom, you’re actually already beginning to share your microbiome with your baby via the placenta, which houses a microbial community that closely resembles the bacteria found in your mouth.1 (This is one of the many reasons it’s so important to take care of your oral health during pregnancy!)
The next important way your baby gathers friendly microbes from you is during childbirth. The probiotic flora introduced to your little one at this time will become some of the most important founding members of her intestinal microbiome, and they’ll play a vital role in her growth and development. Unfortunately, C-section babies miss out on this critical phase of the microbial torch-passing, which could increase the risk of certain health issues down the road.2
Once your adorable little one is finally in your arms, this loving skin-to-skin contact allows you to hand over some of the microbes that live on the surface of your body, which work to keep unwanted types of bacteria at bay.3
Last but definitely not least, breastfeeding provides crucial nourishment to both your baby and her tiny developing intestinal microbiome. Science reveals that your immune cells can fast-track the beneficial bacteria in your gut straight to your breast milk by way of the entero-mammary pathway.4,5 That means your gut environment continues to positively influence your baby’s, even long after your child is born.
If you’re unable to breastfeed, don’t panic. You can compensate with a powdered probiotics for babies formula that acquaints your little one with some of the gut-boosting organisms she missed out on during the delivery process or feeding.
Probiotics and Fish Oil: Simple Strategies for Your Baby’s Health
Since microbial sharing begins in the womb, the better you take care of your overall health during pregnancy—and the greater the numbers of helpful flora you have in your microbiome—the more resilient your child’s immune system will be.
Aside from eating a whole food-based, gut-healthy diet and avoiding antibiotics (as well as other medications that negatively affect gut microbes) unless absolutely necessary, taking beneficial supplements is one of the easiest ways to make sure you’ve got what it takes to give your growing baby every health advantage. These two supplements are especially supportive during this special time:
Fish oil contains two specific omega-3 fatty acids needed for a sound pregnancy and overall health: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA provides some very important benefits prior to birth—encouraging babies’ brain and eye development, as well as helping moms enjoy a healthy full-term pregnancy.6,7,8
Both DHA and EPA are essential nutrients that can only be obtained through food or supplementation. To further complicate things, fish is one of the major dietary sources of these omega-3’s, and unfortunately, fresh fish comes with the risk of mercury contamination—something you definitely don’t want to introduce to your baby! Supplementing with fish oil allows you and your baby to get the DHA and EPA you both need, without the worry of mercury exposure.
Vegetarian and vegan moms-to-be need their DHA and EPA too! Thankfully, there are plenty of suitable omega-3 options for those who choose not to eat fish. A number of companies offer EPA/DHA supplements sourced from sea algae, and like their fish oil counterparts, these plant-based supplements provide essential omega-3 fatty acids with no mercury risk.
Since your baby gets her initial microbiome from you alone, it’s critical to strengthen and diversify your own microbial community as much as possible to give her health the proper start. Taking probiotics during pregnancy is one of the best ways to make sure you’re passing along a healthy variety of the most beneficial strains of bacteria around.
To make sure you’re introducing your gut to the best possible probiotic team, consider supplementing with a high quality, time-released probiotic formula specifically designed for pregnant and nursing woman, like PRO-Moms, which delivers billions of health-enhancing microorganisms in every tiny pearl—along with the added bonus of kiwifruit powder to support comfortable digestion.
How Can Taking Probiotics and Fish Oil Benefit My Baby?
Taking probiotics and fish oil together during pregnancy may end up doing a lot more for you and your baby than taking either one alone. That’s because these two powerful supplements complement one another to encourage your little one’s developing defenses in these three key areas:
• Gastrointestinal Wellness. In a recent clinical trial, the babies of moms who supplemented with probiotics during pregnancy were more likely to have maintain healthy gastrointestinal function, with fewer occurrences of tummy discomfort than babies whose moms didn’t receive a probiotic supplement.9
Fish oil supplementation during pregnancy may also provide an early gut microbial advantage for babies. Research involving mice found that fish oil supplementation resulted in positive changes to the gut microbiome that support better overall GI health.10
• Immune Response. Most of the human immune system is located in the GI tract, so it’s not surprising that studies are beginning to reveal that maintaining a balanced gut through probiotics or fish oil supplementation is also associated with supported immunity.
In one study, expectant moms were given probiotic supplements, and then after delivery their babies also received probiotics. These babies demonstrated better antibody response than a control group receiving placebos.11
Prenatal DHA supplementation also seems to bolster immunity in early life. Newborns whose moms received DHA during pregnancy experienced fewer respiratory, nasal, temperature, and other health issues during their first six months than those whose moms didn’t take the supplement.12
• Food Sensitivities and Skin Issues. Recently, researchers examined hundreds of studies to find out how the diets of pregnant women might affect their babies. This was one of the largest-scale reviews of its kind, and the results were striking.
• Nineteen of the analyzed studies showed that babies were 22% less likely to develop unpleasant skin reactions if their moms had supplemented with probiotics during the last trimester of pregnancy through the first three-to-four months of breastfeeding, as compared with moms who didn’t take probiotics at all.13
• Six of the studies reviewed provided evidence that a baby’s risk of experiencing overreactions in the immune system after eating common foods was reduced by 31% when fish oil supplements were taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as compared to moms who consumed no fish oil at all.13
The fact that every choice you make during pregnancy has an effect on your growing baby is a heavy responsibility—but giving your child’s immune system and health a running start doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. Just taking good care of yourself, and adding something as small as a probiotic or fish oil pill can have a huge positive influence on your baby’s lifelong health, months before she even makes her long-awaited debut into this amazing world.
1. Aagaard, K., Ma, J., Antony, K.M., Ganu, R., Petrosino, J., & Versalovic, J. (2014). The Placenta Harbors a Unique Microbiome. Science Translational Medicine,6(237).
2. Blustein, J., & Liu, J. (2015). Time to consider the risks of caesarean delivery for long term child health. BMJ,350 (Jun09 3).
3. Christensen, G., & Brüggemann, H. (2014). Bacterial skin commensals and their role as host guardians. Beneficial Microbes,5(2), 201-215.
4. Rodriguez, J.M., (2014). The Origin of Human Milk Bacteria: Is There a Bacterial Entero-Mammary Pathway During Late Pregnancy and Lactation? Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal,5(6), 779-784. doi:10.3945/an.114.007229
5. Jost, T., Lacroix, C., Braegger, C.P., Rochat, F., & Chassard, C. (2013). Vertical mother-neonate transfer of maternal gut bacteria via breastfeeding. Environmental Microbiology,16(9), 2891-2904. doi:10.1111/1462-2920.12238
6. Rogers, L. K., Valentine, C. J., & Keim, S. A. (2013). DHA Supplementation: Current Implications in Pregnancy and Childhood. Pharmacological Research,70(1). doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2012.12.003
7. Morse, N. L. (2012). Benefits of Docosahexaenoic Acid, Folic Acid, Vitamin D and Iodine on Foetal and Infant Brain Development and Function Following Maternal Supplementation during Pregnancy and Lactation. Nutrients,4, 799-840. doi:10.3390/nu4070799
8. Pietrantoni, E., Del Chierico, F., Rigon, G., Vernocchi, P., Salvatori, G., Manco, M., . . . Putignani, L. (2014). Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation during Pregnancy: A Potential Tool to Prevent Membrane Rupture and Preterm Labor. International Journal of Molecular Sciences,15, 8024-8036. doi:10.3390/ijms15058024
9. Baldassarre, M. E., Di Mauro, A., Mastromarino, P., Fanelli, M., Martinelli, D., Urbano, F., . . . Laforgia, N. (2016). Administration of a Multi-Strain Probiotic Product to Women in the Perinatal Period Differentially Affects the Breast Milk Cytokine Profile and May Have Beneficial Effects on Neonatal Gastrointestinal Functional Symptoms. A Randomized Clinical Trial. Nutrients,8(677). doi:10.3390/nu8110677
10. Caesar, R., Tremaroli, V., Kovatcheva-Datchary, P., Cani, P., & Bäckhed, F. (2015). Crosstalk between Gut Microbiota and Dietary Lipids Aggravates WAT Inflammation through TLR Signaling. Cell Metabolism, 22(4), 658-668. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2015.07.026
11. Savilahti, E. (2011). Probiotics in the Treatment and Prevention of Allergies in Children. Bioscience Microflora,30(4), 119-128. doi:10.12938/bifidus.30.119
12. Imhoff-Kunsch, B., MPH, PhD, Stein, A. D., MPH, PhD, Martorell, R., PhD, Parra-Cabrera, S., PhD, Romieu, I., MD, MPH, ScD, & Ramakrishnan, U., PhD. (2011). Prenatal Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation and Infant Morbidity: Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics,128(3), E505-E512. doi:10.1542/peds.2010-1386
13. Garcia-Larsen, V., Ierodiakonou, D., Jarrold, K., Cunha, S., Chivinge, J., Robinson, Z., . . . Boyle, R. J. (2018). Diet during pregnancy and infancy and risk of allergic or autoimmune disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS Medicine,15(2).