July 15, 2024

Vita Nectar

Health is the main investment in life

Gut Health in Pregnancy: Why A Healthy Digestive System Is Essential For Moms And Babies? Experts Answer

5 min read
Why A Healthy Digestive System Is Essential For Moms And Babies? Experts Answer

Why A Healthy Digestive System Is Essential For Moms And Babies? Experts Answer (Image Credits: iStock)

Pregnancy is a transformative period, not only because a woman is carrying a new life in her womb but also due to numerous changes a woman’s body undergoes. One critical aspect that often goes overlooked is gut health. While having a healthy digestive system is important for everyone, pregnant women need it even more. With trillions of bacteria residing in the digestive tract, the gut microbiome is crucial to maintain health. Pregnant women must maintain a healthy gut microbiota for their health and the health and development of their unborn child. We got in touch with health experts who share why maintaining a healthy digestive system is essential.

Role of Gut Microbiome in Maternal Health

Dr Neelam Suri, Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi shares that the gut microbiome is integral to digestion, immune function, and overall well-being. During pregnancy, the microbiome changes to support the developing fetus. A healthy gut microbiome can positively impact the mother’s health in several ways:

1. Nutrient Absorption: A well-balanced gut microbiome enhances the absorption of essential nutrients, such as folate, iron, and calcium, which are crucial for fetal development. Poor gut health can lead to deficiencies, affecting both mother and baby.

2. Immune System Support: Most of the immune system resides in the gut. A healthy microbiome helps regulate immune responses, reducing the risk of infections and inflammatory conditions. This is particularly important during pregnancy when the immune system is naturally altered to prevent the body from rejecting the fetus.

3. Mental Health: The gut-brain axis, a bidirectional communication system between the gut and the brain, plays a crucial role in mental health. Imbalances in the gut microbiome have been linked to anxiety and depression, which can be detrimental to both maternal mental health and pregnancy outcomes.

Health Risks Associated with Poor Gut Health

Dr Aruna Kalra, Director- Obstetrics and Gynaecology, CK Birla Hospital Gurugram shares health risks associated with poor gut health. This includes:

Premature Birth

An increased risk of premature delivery has been associated with poor gut health, which can present several health concerns for the baby. An unbalanced gut microbiota can lead to inflammation, which can cause early labour. A high-fibre diet and probiotics can help minimise inflammation and encourage a healthier pregnancy, which may lessen the chance of a preterm birth.

Pre-eclampsia

Preeclampsia is a dangerous illness that is characterised by elevated blood pressure and harm to other organs, most frequently the kidneys and liver. There is growing evidence that imbalances in the gut microbiota may impact immunological and inflammatory responses, which in turn may play a role in the development of preeclampsia. These reactions can be regulated by a healthy gut, which may lower the risk of preeclampsia.

Gestational Diabetes

Research suggests that dysbiosis may contribute to the development of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). An unhealthy gut can influence insulin resistance, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. GDM poses risks to both the mother and the baby, including preterm birth and increased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Obesity and Metabolic Issues

Gut health can influence weight gain and metabolic health. Dysbiosis has been linked to excessive weight gain during pregnancy, increasing the risk of complications such as cesarean delivery and childhood obesity.

Impact On Baby’s Health

Dr Neelam Suri explains the baby’s health is profoundly influenced by the mother’s gut microbiome. The transfer of microbes from mother to baby occurs during delivery and through breastfeeding, establishing the infant’s microbiome, which plays a critical role in their immune and metabolic health.

1. Immune Development: A healthy microbiome in the mother helps ensure that beneficial bacteria are passed to the baby, aiding in the development of a robust immune system. This early colonization can protect the baby against allergies, asthma, and other immune-related conditions.

2. Digestive Health: Infants inherit their initial gut bacteria from their mothers. A healthy microbiome supports the development of the baby’s digestive system, reducing the risk of conditions like colic, constipation, and gastroesophageal reflux.

3. Neurodevelopment: As per research, gut microbiome may influence neurodevelopment. The establishment of a healthy microbiome in infancy can support brain development and cognitive function.

Strategies For Maintaining Gut Health During Pregnancy

Dr Neelam Suri shares that expectant mothers can take several steps to maintain a healthy digestive system:

1. Balanced Diet: Consuming a diet rich in fibre, fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods can promote a healthy microbiome. Probiotics and prebiotics are particularly beneficial in maintaining gut health.

2. Hydration: Adequate water intake supports digestion and overall gut function.

3. Stress Management: High-stress levels can negatively impact gut health. Techniques such as prenatal yoga, meditation, and adequate sleep can help manage stress.

4. Avoiding Unnecessary Antibiotics: While antibiotics are sometimes necessary, they can disrupt the gut microbiome. It’s essential to use them only when prescribed by a healthcare provider.

5. Regular Exercise: Physical activity can promote a healthy gut microbiome and improve digestion.

Expert Advice On Keeping Your Gut Healthy Throughout Pregnancy

Dr Aruna Kalra shares advice for keeping your gut healthy throughout pregnancy:

1. Drink plenty of water- For intestinal health, one must drink enough water. Water maintains the healthy function of helpful bacteria in the digestive tract and helps it work properly.

2. Consume a Balanced Diet- A diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fibre promotes a balanced microbiome in the stomach. Probiotics from fermented foods, such as kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and yoghurt, are healthy and can improve gut health. Reducing sugar, fats, and processed meals can also support the health of a balanced microbiome.

3. Control Your Stress- Excessive stress can have an adverse impact on the bacteria in the intestines. Deep breathing exercises, yoga, and mindfulness are a few practices that can improve gut health and help manage stress.

4. Probiotic- Probiotic medication may be helpful, particularly if you were given antibiotics while pregnant, as these medications have the potential to disturb gut health. Before beginning any new supplement regimen, speak with your gynaecologist.

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