Can Probiotics Reduce the Risk of Preterm Birth?

You may have heard of the microbiome or “gut bacteria” – names for the trillions of tiny organisms that colonize your gut. There are “good” and “bad” microbes, and certain ones have a big impact on your health. These microbes also live elsewhere in your body, including a woman’s cervix!

New research has found a link between the types of microbes found in the cervix and risk of preterm birth. Prematurity is often still a big mystery in modern medicine, so this research is groundbreaking (and thus the winner of a March of Dimes Award).

Here’s the gist: Higher levels of two types of “good” bacteria – bifidobacterium and lactobacillus – were linked to significantly lower risk of preterm birth.

Of course, this got me thinking about the food sources of bifidobacterium and lactobacillus, and whether a mom’s diet during pregnancy could influence the risk of preterm birth. While researchers haven’t made the link to a woman’s diet YET, it may only be a matter of time. Now that would be groundbreaking! 

The best dietary sources of these probiotics (a.k.a. the good bacteria) are

  • yogurt
  • kefir
  • sauerkraut
  • kimchi
  • kombucha
  • sourdough bread
  • tempeh
  • foods/beverages supplemented with probiotics.

I don’t want to spread rumors that your diet influences your risk of preterm birth. The research just isn’t there yet. And it’s not causal research (cause and effect), but correlational, which is weaker and has many different factors to consider. But it is possible that diet, probiotic intake and risk of preterm birth are linked. And there are plenty of other pregnancy (and non-pregnancy-related) benefits of eating probiotics. So do your best to make probiotics a priority, especially during pregnancy! 

February 9, 2017

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