According to most medical experts, it is generally safe to take acidophilus during pregnancy. In fact, some studies have shown that supplementing with this particular bacterium can actually be beneficial to both mother and baby, provided it’s done in moderation. There are some exceptions, however. Women who are lactose intolerant often respond poorly to supplements, and can develop symptoms like abdominal cramping and digestive distress. Most of the time these issues don’t threaten the fetus or the pregnancy, but they can be very uncomfortable and can weaken the mother more generally. These same symptoms can arise if the supplement is taken in excessively high concentrations. Additionally, women who are immuno-compromised are usually wise to avoid this and other bacteria-related supplements, and should consult a physician or other care provider before taking any supplements during pregnancy. For most moms-to-be, though, acidophilus is safe when taken in normal doses.
Understanding Acidophilus Generally
Acidophilus, also known as Lactobacillus acidophilus or probiotics, are a family of bacteria essential to digestion in humans and many animals. Strains are found naturally in the intestine, as well as several other moist body cavities including the vagina. It is considered good bacteria that aid in healthy digestion and help fight as well as prevent bacterial infections.
Strains of these bacteria are also readily available in many different dietary sources, particularly yogurts and fermented foods. The bacteria have been captured and synthesized into dietary supplements, normally in pill form, as well; these sorts of supplements are often promoted as a means of normalizing stomach acid and regulating digestive health, though some people also believe they are capable of improving overall health more generally. Pregnant women who are normally able to consume dairy products without issue don’t usually have a problem eating yogurts and other acidophilus-rich foods, and in many case this is actually encouraged because of the other health benefits associated with these sorts of snacks. Pills are more concentrated, but don’t usually pose any significant risks. Just the same, pregnant women should usually talk about dietary supplements with their care provider first in order to get a more personalized assessment.
As is so often the case, there are instances in which the supplement might not be safe, though in the case of acidophilus these are usually related more to existing conditions in the mother rather than anything intrinsically wrong with the supplement. For instance, acidophilus in pregnancy may pose a risk to the mother or child if the mother is lactose intolerant, in which case discomfort or other adverse effects may occur. Women who have weakened immune systems are also recommended to not take probiotics, and conditions like HIV can make increased bacterial presences harmful even if those bacteria are “good.”
In the vast majority of pregnancies, though, supplementation is perfectly safe — and many even have some benefits. Several studies have shown that acidophilus may be used to prevent bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections, both of which women are more likely to get while pregnant. In conjunction to fighting and preventing infections common in pregnancy, it is further believed that using acidophilus in pregnancy may also aid in preventing premature delivery and might be able to help strengthen the developing baby’s immune system as well.
Normally, only one supplemental pill is needed each day, depending on the brand and the strength of each capsule or pill. In many cases, it may still be safe to continue to eat foods rich in the probiotic at the same time. If an antibiotic must be taken, it is usually recommended that the probiotic be taken two hours before or after the antibiotic for optimal results. It is further recommended that using acidophilus in pregnancy be discontinued between two and four weeks before expected delivery, but in most cases it can be picked back up during breastfeeding.