The bodily and hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can sometimes lead to irritating skin problems, as well as constipation. Though probiotics have been proved to support healthy digestion* and manage skin irritations,* like acne and inflammation, many women wonder whether they're safe to take while pregnant.
We consulted an integrative gastroenterologist, as well as doctors in obstetrics and gynecology to help answer that question. In short, taking probiotics while pregnant is generally safe. As with any medication or supplement, you should always consult your personal health care provider before starting a new regimen, though.
Is it safe to take probiotics during pregnancy?
It's difficult to perform large, comprehensive studies on pregnant women, as it may put the mom or the fetus at risk, OB/GYN Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, M.D., says. However, there have been several small studies on the effects of probiotics during pregnancy.
Based on those studies (like this one on gastrointestinal issues during pregnancy or this one on the safety of probiotics with pregnancy and lactation), there is no evidence of harm from taking probiotics while pregnant. In fact, Gilberg-Lenz says some studies even show potential benefits.
Are there any benefits to taking probiotics while pregnant?
For women who experience constipation during pregnancy, probiotics may be beneficial. One research review found that probiotic supplements can alter the flora of the colon, and many pregnant patients notice an improvement in bowel function as a result.*
To support a healthy gut and digestion during pregnancy, gastroenterologist Marvin Singh, M.D., recommends taking a broad-spectrum probiotic supplement, which contains plenty of helpful lactobacillus and bifidobacterium species.* You can find these types of probiotic strains in mindbodygreen's probiotic+ supplement. "It's good to support the gut microbiome especially in a time when there could be a fair amount of shifting and changing," he explains. In addition to a supplement, Singh also suggests eating probiotic-rich foods to reap both the nutritional and gut-friendly benefits.
For women with skin conditions, like eczema and allergies, taking probiotics during pregnancy may help manage or reduce those symptoms in the child,* according to a study published by the World Health Organization. Though, "to date, there have been mixed results from the pregnancy studies," clinical professor at Yale University and board-certified OB/GYN Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., says. Some show effective prevention of allergic issues for the babies, while some have no effect, meaning there needs to be more research to draw definitive conclusions.
Also, Gilberg-Lenz says women should not rely on probiotics to prevent complications with birth or fetal development.
For women who are already using probiotics as part of a supplementation regimen, it should be safe to continue doing so throughout pregnancy. Probiotics may offer benefits for pregnant women, but the research is still mixed on the definitive effects. Overall, no significant studies suggest they're harmful, Minkin says, but "as always it's best for women to check with their obstetricians and midwives for their opinions."
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.