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Taking probiotics while pregnant may lower risk of pre-eclampsia and premature birth

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Probiotics taken during pregnancy might help lower the risks of pre-eclampsia and premature birth, but timing may be crucial, a study has suggested.

Researchers from Norway and Sweden noted that there was a growing body of evidence to suggest that a woman’s diet influenced the outcome of her pregnancy.

They also cited previous research indicating that probiotics – live bacteria and yeasts thought to promote good health – might reduce certain complications of pregnancy.

To find out whether the timing of intake might be influential, the researchers used data on more than 70,000 pregnancies from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa).

As part of the MoBa observational study, women provided information on their diet, lifestyle, medical history, and other relevant background factors at 15, 22, and 30 weeks of pregnancy.

At 15 and 30 weeks, the questions included additional information on intake of different milk products containing probiotic bacteria before and during their pregnancy.

Just over 23% of women said they had consumed probiotic milk products before their pregnancy, over 37% had done so during early pregnancy and just over 32% had done so late on.

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The probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG

Intake of probiotic milk products was more common among older, more affluent and better educated women, who were pregnant for the first time, noted the researchers.

Probiotic intake was associated with a 20% lower risk of pre-eclampsia, but only during late pregnancy, highlighted the researchers – also noting that the impact was strongest for severe cases.

Meanwhile, a significant association emerged between probiotic intake during early pregnancy and an 11% lower risk of premature birth, rising to 27% for preterm birth late in the pregnancy.

The amount of probiotic consumed did not seem to make any difference, according to the findings published in the journal BMJ Open.

The authors stated: “If future randomised controlled studies support a protective effect of probiotic consumption on reduced risk of pre-eclampsia and preterm delivery, recommending [it] would be a promising public health measure to prevent these adverse pregnancy outcomes.”

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