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Friday, January 21, 2022
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When preparing for pregnancy, many women encounter similar advice from their health practitioner: Exercise, reduce stress, follow a healthy diet, and take folic acid and a prenatal vitamin. (The occasional bowl of ice cream with whipped cream goes without saying!)

However, in recent years, there has been increasing evidence that specific components of the maternal microbiome (good bacteria) are equally, if not more important, during and immediately following pregnancy. Given the many changes to the mother’s gut microbiome during gestation, regulating the maternal gut microbiome is beneficial to the health of both the mother and the baby. In fact, some of the complications that can arise during pregnancy are linked to the maternal gut microbiome, including, gestational diabetes, obesity, preeclampsia, digestive disorders and autoimmune diseases.

 

The Gift of Healthy Microbes

In addition to the mother’s gut microbiome, there is also a maternal microbiome within the birth canal and in the mother’s milk. These are all components of the human microbiome and are transferred to the baby through a vaginal birth and/or through the mother’s milk, establishing the foundation of the infant’s microbiome. For this reason, babies who don’t receive a healthy dose of microbes through vaginal births and/or breast milk may be more susceptible to many health conditions, including asthma and allergies, respiratory infections, irritable bowel disease, type 1 diabetes and obesity.

The microbiome is now labeled a supporting organ because it plays so many key roles in promoting the smooth daily operations of the human body. Therefore, it is no surprise that an infant’s neurodevelopment is also connected to their microbiota and that underlying changes of microbiomes in the infant are linked to neurological disorders such as anxiety, autism, depression and stress (Vuong and Hsiao, 2017).

 

Preparing the Microbiome For Pregnancy

There are several steps a woman can take to develop a healthy and diverse maternal microbiome:

Discuss the risks of using antibiotics with your health practitioner.

Avoid a diet rich in processed foods and sugar which promotes yeast overgrowth.

Avoid douching, which can remove healthy bacteria.

Exercise and manage stressors.

Eat a healthy diet including leafy greens, berries, herbs and other veggies.

Discuss taking a probiotic or eating fermented foods with your health practitioner.

Prevent bacterial vaginosis, which disrupts the bacterial flora.

Use chemical-free, non-toxic soaps and personal-care products.

 

Developing Your Baby’s Microbiome

There are several steps you can take to help your baby develop a healthy and diverse microbiome during and immediately following the gestational period:

  • Discuss with your practitioner the benefits of a vaginal birth.
  • Discuss with your practitioner the option for your baby to receive a vaginal swab of good microbes, should a C-section be necessary.
  • Breastfeed or pump your milk if possible and receive support to be successful.
  • Discuss with your pediatrician the option of a human milk bank for supplementation or if you are unable to breastfeed.
  • Practice skin-to-skin contact with your baby, which provides some additional transfer of microbes.
  • Continue to eat a healthy diet while breastfeeding.

 

Supporting Women During Pregnancy and Motherhood

It has been almost two decades since my first pregnancy, when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and preeclampsia, and eventually gave birth prematurely. Since research on the gut microbiome was in its infancy 20 years ago, I realize there is not much I could have done to prevent my complications, however, research has since come such a long way. For this reason, it is one of my greatest passions—to guide, support and educate women before, during and after pregnancy, either through one-on-one health coaching or my pregnancy workshops.

Topics connected to pregnancy often evoke a variety of opinions, feelings and emotions. Therefore, when I coach women around the time of pregnancy, and in general for that matter, it is not my role to tell them what to do. Rather, I help women figure out what practices work best for them. I strive to empower women to feel confident in their own decisions as they navigate the differing approaches, philosophies and well-meaning loved one’s advice during pregnancy and motherhood. I guide women to develop their own voice through all the various recommendations coming at them from every direction. Every woman and every pregnancy is unique and requires its own special care.

If you are looking for guidance on preparing for a healthy pregnancy and motherhood, I would love to have the opportunity to connect with you. I am blessed to have experience working with women who need and deserve this support to thrive physically, emotionally and spiritually for themselves and the many generations to come.

Wishing you much health and wellness wherever you may be on your health journey!


Jill Friedbauer has been working in the field of health and wellness for 20 years. She is a national board-certified health and wellness coach, licensed physical therapist, and author of the book “Heal Your Soul, Heal Your Gut.” Jill is available for one-on-one health coaching, family health coaching, group coaching and speaking engagements. Jill can be reached via email at: [email protected], or to book a consultation, visit her website at: www.jillfriedbauer.com.

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