Can you take probiotics while pregnant

Can You Take Probiotics While Pregnant? (SEE DANGERS INVOLVED)

Dr. Shina

Medically reviewed by Dr. Olusina AjidahunMay 29, 2023

While constipation and Diarrhoea remain one of frequent complaints of pregnant women, it isn’t surprising that you might consider using probiotics.

But can you take probiotics during pregnancy?

Although studies about probiotic use during pregnancy are limited, researchers found no association between probiotics and the incidence of C-sections, low birth weight, miscarriages, or malformations of any kind.

The American Pregnancy Association even points it out here.

However, the association is wary about declaring that probiotics are completely safe for pregnant women. Still, they concede that these supplements can be safe. 

They recommend consulting your doctor regarding the supplements you need through pregnancy, including probiotics.

Still, this brings us to the next concerns: should you take probiotics during pregnancy, will it matter what type you take, and can these good bacteria actually cause infections or affect your unborn child?

I’ll explain these to you in detail right on this page.

Table of Contents show

Should You Take Probiotics During Pregnancy?

woman taking probiotics yogurt

Unlike prenatal vitamins and iron or iodine supplements, probiotics aren’t routinely recommended for pregnant women.  Still, the American Pregnancy Association doesn’t stop you from taking them entirely as long as you consult your doctor.

They added that it might be a good idea to take probiotics to help your digestive system work efficiently during pregnancy.

Still, for many pregnant women, probiotic use is a personal choice.

Before fully deciding on whether you should take probiotics, it’s important to understand whether they will affect your pregnancy outcome.

Pregnancy Outcomes With Supplementation Of Probiotics (or Prebiotics)

A 2018 study found no evidence that probiotic or prebiotic use during pregnancy can affect the outcome of your pregnancy.

The researchers explained that using these supplements neither increases nor decreases the risks of preterm birth or other adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Still, even if these supplements have no effect on pregnancy outcomes, it doesn’t mean that they’re useless for pregnant women.  They have other effects on the body that can help during pregnancy – and it is good news that Probiotics don’t directly affect Pregnancy outcomes.

Does It Matter What Probiotics Type You Take When Pregnant?

Different kinds and strains of probiotics can have other effects on your tummy. So, if you were to use probiotics to target a specific symptom, for example, you might check what type is in your supplement.

However, a study shows that for general use, you can stick to the most popular and commonly used probiotics: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Common strains include: 

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium lactis

These strains are generally considered as safe to take long-term, even for pregnant women.

How Effective Are Probiotics During Pregnancy?

You might be throwing up a lot or feeling like you have an upset tummy due to your pregnancy. Don’t worry too much because that’s likely to be morning sickness.

As many as 85% of pregnant women report experiencing nausea and vomiting that affected their quality of life, particularly in early pregnancy, according to a 2021 study.

The good news is that many of them discover that probiotics can help settle their upset tummy and reduce the severity of their nausea symptoms and vomiting.

Plus, participants in the study showed marked improvement in life quality with reduced constipation.

Probiotics Safety During Pregnancy & Lactation

The American Pregnancy Association explains that both the NLM (National Library of Medicine) and the NIH (National Institute of Health) consider probiotics as “probably safe” for pregnant women because these good bacteria are rarely absorbed. 

Although the word “bacteria” might scare you, taking probiotics (aka good gut bacteria) isn’t likely to make you sick.

The NIH and NLM point out that:

  • The chances of having Bacteria blood-borne infections from Lactobacillus probiotics is less than 1 per 1 million individuals
  • The chances of acquiring fungemia from Saccharomyces boulardii probiotics is 1 per 5.6 million individuals

However, I understand that you do have valid concerns over probiotic use and their safety. Let’s discuss them below.

Probiotics And Pregnancy: Warnings & Risks

Like many other supplements or even medications, probiotics are not for everyone. 

It’s important to consult your doctor before taking probiotics during pregnancy, especially if:

  • You’re immunocompromised or have an autoimmune disorder
  • Have been diagnosed or have a known allergy to bacteria or yeast in probiotics
  • You’re recovering from major surgery or are critically ill 

Probiotics Crossing The Placenta: Possible?

You might also be wondering whether probiotics can cross the placenta to reach your baby. 

That’s also a valid concern because lots of medications aren’t allowed for pregnant women because the active ingredients can cross the placenta.

However, studies about this vertical transfer of probiotics from mom to baby have inconclusive results. Although one study discovered an increase in the number of probiotic bacteria in the amniotic fluid, others found no significant difference.

So, the possibility is there but researchers can’t say for certain whether it will happen in all pregnancies. Still, it’s important to bear that in mind in trying to decide whether you’ll take probiotics or not.

Can Probiotics Harm A Fetus In Utero?

As we already explained above, studies show that there’s very little likelihood that probiotics will have any effect on your pregnancy outcome.

And even if probiotics might cross the placenta, they aren’t likely to harm your baby because these bacteria aren’t activated elsewhere in the body, only in the gut where they’re useful.

pregnant woman

Benefits Of Taking Probiotics During Pregnancy

Probiotics can have many benefits for you during pregnancy. I’ve listed and explained each of the below:

Benefit #1: Preventing Constipation

Straining while defecating can make you feel worried that you could have a miscarriage, due to the pressure you feel in your abdomen. Well, it doesn’t. But it can make you feel uncomfortable.

The good news is that probiotics can improve your gut microbiome, helping prevent constipation.

Benefit #2: Preventing Infections

A 2018 study also explains that maternal inflammation can lead to preterm birth and increased risk of morbidity (death) in preterm infants. 

Probiotics don’t directly affect pregnancy outcomes, but they can indirectly help prevent preterm birth by preventing infections.

Also, preterm babies are also more prone to experiencing NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis), a dangerous condition that causes holes to form in their intestines and leak bacteria into their bloodstream.

The study hypothesizes that probiotics might help reduce a preterm’s child risk for severe NEC if their mommy takes probiotic supplements during pregnancy.

Benefit #3: Preventing Gestational Diabetes & Improving Maternal Metabolic Health

Do you know that healthy pregnant women without diabetes can experience high a state of very high blood sugar during pregnancy?

That’s called gestational diabetes, a condition that can be dangerous to you and your baby because of possible complications, including serious breathing difficulties, excessive birth weight (increases risk of C-section), and stillbirth.

Thankfully, a 2020 study shows that probiotics can improve your metabolic health, helping reduce and maintain blood sugar levels to prevent gestational diabetes and its possible complications.

Benefit #4: Promoting Immune Health

Another 2014 study on probiotics shows promising results in improving immune health, which can be crucial during pregnancy. After all, if you get sick, it could affect your baby and even lead to possible birth defects.

Taking medicines, especially antibiotics, might also potentially harm your unborn child. So, the adage “prevention is better than cure” should be your goal during pregnancy, mama.

Benefit #5: Reducing Risk Of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

Hormonal changes during pregnancy and birth make new moms more prone to depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.

Surprisingly, a 2017 clinical trial reported that women who took the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 during pregnancy had lower depression and anxiety scores than the placebo or control group.

Benefit #6: Probiotics Might Help With Morning Sickness

The 2021 study mentioned above showed that probiotics can help with morning sickness, reducing the severity of nausea symptoms and vomiting.

It’s estimated that up to 90% of pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, commonly known as morning sickness. While morning sickness is usually not harmful to the baby, it can be quite debilitating for the mother-to-be.

Benefit #7: Might Reduce Miscarriage Risk

A 2018 study involving women with recurrent pregnancy loss showed that they have a higher prevalence of undiagnosed gut disorders, including the so-called “leaky gut.”

This study concluded that treatment of leaky gut and other tummy issues with probiotics and other options can help reduce miscarriage risks.

Benefit #8: Taking Probiotics Might Benefit Your Baby

Although research on the direct benefits of probiotics to unborn babies remains limited, one study showed that the risk of developing eczema or atopic dermatitis was reduced by as much as 50% in babies whose pregnant moms took Lactobacillus GG probiotic supplements.

Benefit #9: Can Help You Deal With Yeast Infections

Many pregnant women deal with vaginal yeast infections because of the hormonal changes that affect their vaginal secretions and normal flora (bacterial microbiome) in their vaginal area.

Probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus can help prevent this imbalance which can lead to yeast infections, reports Live Strong.

Considering that treatment for infections can potentially harm your unborn baby, prevention is really better than cure even for vaginal infections.

Benefit #10: Reduced Autism Risk

Research shows that MIA (maternal immune activation) during pregnancy increases your unborn child’s risk for ASD (autism spectrum disorders).

Surprisingly, a 2019 study showed that probiotics can help improve a pregnant woman’s immune health and reduce autism risk even in moms who have suffered from MIA by inhibiting proinflammatory cytokine production.

Benefit #11: Promotes Better Brain Health

Based on my research, I found out that your gut microbiome during pregnancy can determine your baby’s brain development. That’s because our gut bacteria programs our unborn baby’s brain development as well as motor control and emotional behavior as adults.

Other Benefits of Probiotics During Pregnancy

  • Increases nutrition in the first milk you produce after childbirth which has a lot of protection function for the child. This is called COLOSTRUM
  • Improves placenta health so your unborn baby receives better nutrition in the womb
  • Reduces mastitis (inflammation of breast tissues due to an infection)
  • Modulates healthy bacteria in your lymph nodes that can improve breast health
  • Reduces risks of premature membrane rupture
  • Reduces pathological (bad bacteria) umbilical cord blood pH

When To Start Taking Probiotics In Pregnancy

Now that you know the benefits of probiotics, you might be wondering how soon you can start and whether timing affects its effectiveness.

probiotics tablet image

Let’s explore probiotics timing during pregnancy:

Probiotics In The First Trimester

Here’s some good news: probiotics might work best if you take them during the first trimester. 

According to a 2010 clinical trial, women taking Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12 during the first trimester may have a reduced risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Probiotics in the Second Trimester

Gestational diabetes happens anytime during pregnancy but is more common during the second and third trimesters.  If you haven’t started taking probiotics in the first trimester, you might still catch up during the second. Just make sure to consult your doctor.

Probiotics in the Third Trimester

In late pregnancy or the third trimester, probiotic supplementation might reduce inflammation and help prevent preterm birth, according to the 2018 study on maternal inflammation mentioned above.

How Often Should You Take Probiotics During Pregnancy?

There isn’t a unique schedule for taking probiotics during pregnancy, but many experts recommend taking them daily. As long as you have your doctor’s approval, you can take your chosen or doctor-recommended probiotics according to the package instructions.

What are The Best Probiotics For Pregnant Women?

With probiotic benefits far outweigh the possible risks, it can be a good idea to take them. You actually have two options: natural probiotics and supplements.

I’ll explain these below and share some of my recommendations:

Natural Probiotics For Pregnancy

Some foods are rich in natural probiotics:

  • Yogurt, as long as they have “live active cultures”
  • Kefir, is a kind of fermented milk drink like yogurt
  • Fermented foods, including kimchee, sauerkraut, and pickles prepared with salt (not vinegar)
  • Miso (a traditional Japanese seasoning made of fermented soybean paste)
  • Tempeh (an Indonesian fermented soy product)
  • Aged cheese, such as cheddar

Of course, I understand that many pregnant women hate a lot of food. So, you might not like these natural probiotics. The good news is that there are actually lots of probiotic supplements that are ideal or even made for pregnancy.

Probiotic Supplements Best For Pregnancy

I’ll share four of my best choices for probiotic supplements you can take during pregnancy below:

1. YourBiology Gut +

With 40 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) and four active live strains, Yourbiology Gut+ helps address women’s gut health issues, making it an ideal choice as a probiotic to take during pregnancy.

Live strains in this product:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus paracasei

While it isn’t specially designed for pregnant women, this probiotic has a good chance of reaching your gut, thanks to its special bi-pass technology that shields the bacteria from your stomach acids.

Probiology supplement fact

Plus, this is a shelf-stable product that also comes with prebiotics (your probiotics’ packed lunch).

2. Optibac Pregnancy Probiotics

It is specially formulated for pregnant women, Optibac Pregnancy Probiotics contains the following live active strains:

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus La-14
  • Bifidobacterium lactis HN019

Each serving of one capsule contains 12 billion CFUs of probiotics. It also has prebiotics.

Optibac Pregnancy Probiotics

Since many pregnant women are also prone to vaginal itching due to hormonal imbalances, this probiotic can be a good choice because its good gut bacteria are expected to reach your vaginal tract.

3. Garden of Life, Dr. Formulated Probiotics, Once Daily Prenatal

Garden of Life, Dr. Formulated Probiotics, Once Daily Prenatal features 16 probiotic strains and 20 billion guaranteed CFUs especially designed for providing support during pregnancy and lactation.

Garden of Life prenatal

What I love about this product is that it was formulated by a doctor and is third-party certified to be free from gluten (an allergen) and GMOs (genetically modified ingredients).

Live strains in this product include:

  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium infantis
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001

4. Floracap (Probiotics) 

Especially made for ladies, Floracap (Probiotics) contains 10 probiotic strains and 47.5 billion CFUs:

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus reuteri
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus brevis
  • Lactobacillus salivarius
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Bifidobacterium longum

This product is also good in helping maintain the balance of your normal flora (bacteria) in your vaginal area. I love that this product is also free from gluten and GMOs.


Can I Take Probiotics And Prenatal Vitamins At The Same Time?

Absolutely! As long as you don’t have contraindications and you get your doctor’s go signal, you can take both at the same time.

Prenatal vitamins contain the essential vitamins and minerals you need for pregnancy, including iron, iodine, and vitamins C, D, and E. 

But probiotics can fill in the gap for your other nutritional needs and help maintain a healthy gut.

Can You Take Probiotics And Prebiotics While Pregnant?

Yes. Prebiotics are the food of your probiotics, so it’s actually good to take them together. 

Plus, prebiotics won’t have any direct effects on your pregnancy because these are actually dietary fibers. They’re processed by your digestive system and often eliminated without getting absorbed by your body.

Can I Drink Yogurt With Probiotics While Pregnant?

Yes. Yogurt is one of the best natural sources of probiotics in food. 

Another 2020 study showed that the consumption of probiotic yogurt can help improve inflammatory, metabolic, and infectious outcomes during pregnancy.

Can I Drink Kombucha While Pregnant?

It’s a yes or no, depending on the product you’re considering buying.

Kombucha is a type of tea that also contains gut-friendly bacteria. However, it can also contain various herbs and spices, some of which might not be ideal for pregnant women. Plus, it also contains caffeine.

Since pregnancy is a delicate time in your life, I advise against taking kombucha unless you get your doctor’s approval and you know exactly what ingredients were used to make this product.

Can I Take Culturelle While Pregnant?

Culturelle markets its Women’s Wellness Probiotic as safe for pregnant women but also recommends talking to your healthcare provider before taking any new supplement.

Can I Take Acidophilus While Pregnant?

As explained above, Live Strong reports that Lactobacillus acidophilus could help prevent yeast infection during pregnancy. But it remains important to ask your doctor before taking a probiotic for the first time.

How Can I Heal My Gut During Pregnancy?

Another 2018 study explained that probiotic use, including fermented foods (e.g., yogurt, kefir, and miso) or probiotic supplements, promotes a healthy gut. This can also reduce your risk of high blood pressure, which is bad for pregnant women.

Is Yakult Safe For Pregnant Women?

Yes. Yakult is a popular probiotic drink that can be safe and beneficial for pregnant women.

It contains Lactobacillus paracasei Shirota (formerly classified as Lactobacillus casei Shirota), a probiotic that could help alleviate constipation and possibly reduce your postpartum depression risks. 

According to another 2021 study, this strain is beneficial for reducing potentially depressive symptoms of patients diagnosed with depression. Since new moms are at risk for postpartum depression, this study shows promising results to help prevent this.

The following benefits of taking Yakult for pregnant women:

  • Alleviates constipation, which I already mentioned above
  • Prevents flatulence and diarrhea, which can cause discomfort
  • Reduces risks of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia (a dangerous blood pressure condition that could also lead to organ damage and protein in urine)
  • Helps manage cholesterol
  • Decreases toxins and improves your immune system
  • Helps with weight management, so you might not need to worry about uncontrollable weight gain

Take note that Yakult can have high sugar levels and could contain milk, a common allergen. Avoid this product if you have a milk allergy, and make sure to ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to take it during pregnancy if your sugar levels are high.

If you have your doctor’s go signal, you can take Yakult anytime you like. According to Yakult, the Lactobacillus casei Shirota strain was scientifically proven to survive stomach acids, so it can also be taken with meals.

Still, you could also consider taking Yakult on an empty stomach around 30 minutes before a meal for the best results.

Final Thoughts

As with any decision you make during your pregnancy, be sure to talk with your doctor about taking probiotics if you’re pregnant. There is currently no evidence that probiotic use during pregnancy can affect your pregnancy outcome negatively. Probiotics are actually considered safe for pregnant women and their infants.

Let me know if you got any questions as an expecting mother looking to take probiotics foods or supplements.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *