pregnancy

pregnant woman holding belly

Could Beneficial Bacteria Protect Babies from Autism?

The cluster of developmental disorders linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the greatest challenges many American families will face.

Autism presents itself uniquely in each child depending on the range and intensity of his/her symptoms, typically with communication and social skills.

One out of 54 children (18.5 out of every 1,000) experience ASD to some degree, according to recent statistics reported by the CDC just from 2016, and the numbers keep climbing.

Over the years, evidence has shown connections between gut health and ASD that are hard to ignore. Often, studies show ASD children possess a distinctly different mix of gut bacteria than those who aren’t living on the spectrum.

Although consistent treatments remain elusive, future moms may be able to reduce some ASD risk factors for their newborns with some gut-friendly help.

Moms: Don’t stress out!

Stress can be a real problem, not only for new moms but their babies (both before and after they’re born). Stress may lead to serious problems, including miscarriages, preemie births and developmental delays.

In previous research, University of Colorado scientists observed how female rats that were stressed and given the drug terbutaline (prescribed by doctors in some cases to delay premature birth) later gave birth to pups presenting autism-like symptoms.

For this new study appearing in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, Colorado scientists conducted essentially the same experiment with one major difference: another group of mice was inoculated with a species of beneficial bacteria known for its lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain (M. vaccae).

Female mice injected with beneficial bacteria had pups that didn’t experience autism symptoms compared to those that didn’t receive it.

No autism vaccine!

Researchers were quick to throw cold water on any assumptions they were creating a “vaccine” for autism, or that microbial interventions could relieve ASD symptoms in children (although there’s documented evidence that some have benefitted from it).

However, a day may come in the not-too-distant-future when stressed-out moms who are at a higher risk of having a child with challenges like ASD could be given a probiotic or be inoculated to support healthy brain development, says Dr. Christopher Lowry, co-author of the Colorado study.

Based on the positive results of studies like this one, researchers recommend that new moms consider gentle approaches to preventing potential problems with ASD with an emphasis on bacteria.

Some of these interventions for new moms include lowering their stress levels with a walk in nature surrounded by microbes (remember the hygiene hypothesis?), eating fermented foods and taking a probiotic.

For a new mom wanting to give her body a gut-friendly boost, EndoMune Advanced Probiotic provides a plethora of benefits from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families, plus a proven prebiotic (FOS) that feeds the beneficial bacteria in her gut.

Resources

Pregnant woman looking out a window while holding her belly.

Coronavirus and Pregnancy

Coronavirus Adds New Anxieties for Pregnant Women 

Recently, the World Health Organization labeled coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a pandemic. Many pregnant women have expressed concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on their health and the health of their unborn babies. Not much is known about pregnancy and the new Coronavirus as more research is being done.

As you might already know, the virus spreads through respiratory droplets sent into the air when a person who is infected coughs or sneezes. It might also spread when someone touches a surface infected by a person who has the virus.

Health officials are urging pregnant women, along with the elderly and others with weakened immune systems, to do their best to avoid exposure to the Coronavirus. Doctors suggest staying home as much as possible, avoiding crowds — including long lines at the supermarkets and other stores — and staying away from emergency rooms if possible.

New information is being discovered daily, but today we answered some of the most common questions surrounding pregnancy and COVID-19.

What can pregnant women do to protect themselves against the novel Coronavirus? 

While there is further research underway across the world, it is currently not known if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public or if they are more likely to have a serious illness as a result of it.

Women experience physiological changes during pregnancy that can weaken their immune systems and place them at higher risk for severe complications if exposed to viruses, especially if they have underlying health conditions. With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness in the past.

With little knowledge of how COVID-19 affects pregnant women and their unborn children, it is pertinent they protect themselves from illnesses and use all the precautions to reduce the chances of contracting COVID-19.

Pregnant women should do the same things as the general public to void infection. You can help stop the spread of COVID-19 by taking these actions:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes – using a tissue is best, but your elbow is a good alternative
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose
  • Wash your hands often using soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Thoroughly wash your fruits and vegetables from the store
  • Avoid public spaces (social distancing is important to limit the spread of the virus)
  • Avoid people who are sick – even in your own home
  • Hydrate and rest often
  • Take a high-quality probiotic to promote healthy digestion and immune health
  • Maintain a healthy diet, high in antioxidant-rich foods

Can COVID-19 be passed from a pregnant woman to the fetus or newborn? 

It is not currently known if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery. No infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

In a recent study published in ​The Lancet​, researchers followed nine pregnant women who had tested positive for the Coronavirus in Wuhan, China— the epicenter of the outbreak— during their third trimester. “Researchers found that none of the infants, all delivered cesarean, had the virus at birth. The virus was not found in samples of the mothers’ breast milk, cord blood, babies throats or amniotic fluid.”

“The risk of passing the infection to the fetus appears to be low, and there is no evidence of any fetal malformations or effects due to maternal infection with COVID-19,” according to the study.

Can you breastfeed if you tested positive for COVID-19? 

While there is no ​evidence​ of the virus in breastmilk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s still not clear whether the virus can be transmitted to infants during feedings.

“Given that the virus is spread through respiratory droplets, mothers should wash their hands before feeding their babies, consider wearing a face mask to minimize the infant’s exposure and properly clean their breast pumps.”

Stay Positive and Take Your Probiotics

It’s important to keep it all in perspective! Create a new daily routine at home to help maintain a sense of normalcy until the baby arrives and take your daily probiotics to help build the best defense.

Resources

US National Library of Medicine

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Lancet

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist

 

Why more expecting mothers are taking probiotics

There are many things a woman can do to promote a healthy pregnancy including taking folic acid, limiting caffeine and maintaining healthy weight, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

These are great tips, but there’s one thing that’s conspicuously absent — caring for the gut health of mom and her baby.

This first of a two-part series discusses the growing number of studies that show how promoting good gut health benefits moms before their babies are born.

Once upon a time

To appreciate the importance of the microbiome to the health of newborns, it’s important to understand that scientists believed — not so long ago — that the mother’s womb was a sterile environment, and babies acquired the beneficial bacteria needed to survive after they were born.

More recent studies have found the exact opposite: Babies may be “seeded” with beneficial bacteria important to their long-term health.

Although science is still figuring out how those healthy bacteria get to the unborn fetus via mom’s microbiome, many experts agree that exposure to bacteria does the both a world of good, from teaching the growing immune system how to recognize and handle pathogens to fighting diseases.

In fact, Dr. Josef Neu, a University of Florida pediatrician, is one of a growing number of experts who believe premature births can be reduced, merely by fetuses having healthy amounts of beneficial bacteria.

Even more important, should harmful bacteria attack the fetus, Dr. Neu and others believe an immune reaction is triggered sending the mother into premature labor, not good for the health of mom and her infant.

Dr. Neu’s solution, as told to the New York Times, is giving moms a “microbial cocktail,” something that sounds a lot like taking a probiotic. In this scenario, doctors could prescribe specific species to protect the fetus from infections or premature delivery.

Probiotics and preeclampsia

A huge concern all new moms have is bringing their babies into the world on time and with as few problems as possible.

Preeclampsia, a serious complication affecting blood pressure with damage to kidneys or other organs, is one of those obstacles that prevent a full-term birth, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The treatment of preeclampsia can be problematic. If left untreated, mom and her baby can face serious or fatal health consequences. The only “cure,” the Mayo Clinic says, is delivering a baby. But, what if that preeclampsia diagnosis comes too early in the baby’s fetal development?

Taking a daily probiotic may not cure preeclampsia. However, according to a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology that monitored the health of more than 33,000 Norwegian women, probiotics lessened the risks of preeclampsia by up to 39 percent in some cases.

Taking a lactobacilli-laced probiotic every day was linked to a 20 percent decrease in the risk of preeclampsia, and a steeper 39 percent drop in a more severe form of the disease.

Scientists hypothesize that probiotics may lessen inflammation levels (a possible trigger for the disease) or have an effect on human placental trophoblasts (cells that form the outside layer of the blastocyst that provides nutrients to the embryo and develop into a large part of the placenta).

Bacterial warning signs

There’s more good news related to mom’s microbiome that may provide early warning signs of premature birth, according to preliminary research conducted by scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and University of Maryland.

Investigators took vaginal swabs from pregnant women during two time periods — late second trimester (20-24 weeks) and early third trimester (24-28 weeks) — then compared the kinds of bacteria (called community state type or CST) taken from moms who gave birth at full term versus those who gave birth prematurely.

“The percent of non-CST III was significantly lower in samples from women delivering preterm than term. Notably, the differences in these microbial communities were evident in the late second trimester of pregnancy, weeks if not months prior to the preterm birth,” said Dr. Michael Elovitz, director of the Maternal and Child Health Research Program at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

“This study is the first to report such key differences in the CV (cervicovaginal) microbial communities weeks prior to preterm birth. If differences in the CV microbial communities are confirmed, then new and exciting therapeutic strategies will emerge to prevent preterm birth.”

Although they weren’t identified as a strategy in this recent study, taking a multi-strain probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic remains the safest and easiest way a mom can give her baby a healthy head start.

Lessen Risk of Preeclampsia with Probiotics

High blood pressure increases a woman’s chance of having heart disease, but it is also a symptom of a serious complication during pregnancy called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia occurs when women develop high blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week of their pregnancy. Other symptoms include swelling of hands, face or eyes, sudden weight gain over one to two days, and infrequency of urination.

A recent study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology  found that by taking a daily probiotic, pregnant women can reduce the risk of developing preeclampsia. Scientists analyzed more than 30,000 pregnant women who drank milk products with and without a dose of probiotics in the first 13 weeks of their pregnancy. Results have shown that women who took probiotics reduced their risk of developing the disease.

A healthy balance of intestinal bacteria lessens the intestinal inflammation that can lead to disorders like preeclampsia. Probiotics, like EndoMune Advanced, contain billons of bacteria that improve intestinal digestion and immune system function, reducing pregnant women’s risk of complications.

Protect Your Pregnancy With Probiotics

Pregnancy is a joyous time in a woman’s life. It is important during this time for women to take care of their bodies; and, adding probiotics may help.

A recent study of pregnant women over the course of six years has found a correlation between probiotics consumption and a decreased risk of late pregnancy complications. Of the more than 33,000 pregnant Norwegian women studied, those that consumed probiotics were 20% less likely to contract late-pregnancy diseases like pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia causes high-blood pressure and protein-filled urine after a woman’s 20th week of pregnancy and, if left untreated, can escalate into eclampsia, a rare but fatal disease.

While researchers factored in other pregnancy-related risks, such as a family history of pre-eclampsia, obesity and high-blood pressure, women consuming probiotics during the time of their pregnancy still showed a lowered chance of contracting pre-eclampsia. Although science has not conclusively found a way to fully prevent pre-eclampsia, consuming probiotics, like EndoMune Advanced, and regular pre-natal doctor visits may help.

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