Gut Bacteria Changes with Pregnancy

Leslie Carol Botha: Very interesting and insightful article on gut bacteria in relation to pregnancy.

Pregnancy Changes Gut Bacteria

Medpage Today

By Michael Smith, North American Correspondent, MedPage Today
Published: August 06, 2012
Reviewed by Dori F. Zaleznik, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner

Action Points

A study characterizing gut microbiota during pregnancy found a marked shift in the third trimester that would ordinarily be associated with the metabolic syndrome, but in this case appear to help support fetal growth.

Note that diet, antibiotics, presence or absence of gestational diabetes, or prepregnancy BMI did not influence the shift in gut microbiome from first to third trimester.

Gut microbiota is “profoundly altered” by pregnancy and marked by changes that would normally be associated with metabolic syndrome, researchers found, but these changes could be beneficial in expectant women, they suggested.

Indeed, when gut bacteria from women in their third trimester were transferred to germ-free mice, the animals developed signs of metabolic syndrome, including weight gain, abnormal glucose metabolism, and inflammation, according to Ruth Ley, PhD, of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and colleagues.

But in pregnancy, the changes may be the body’s way of preparing the mother both to nurture the fetus and care for the infant after birth, Ley and colleagues argued in the August 3 issue of Cell.

“We provide evidence that the gut microbial community composition and structure are profoundly altered over the course of pregnancy,” the authors wrote.

“The findings suggest that our bodies have co-evolved with the microbiota and may actually be using them as a tool to help alter the mother’s metabolism to support the growth of the fetus,” Ley said in a statement.

She said the study is the first in-depth characterization of the gut microbes during pregnancy.

Many of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, such as weight gain and abnormal glucose metabolism, also appear during pregnancy, but the underlying causes have been unclear, the authors noted.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.