Consuming probiotics during pregnancy may reduce incidence of adverse pregnancy outcomes, study finds

Probiotic milk taken in early pregnancy reduces chances of premature birth and in late pregnancy reduces the chances of preeclampsia, according to new research.

Pregnant woman consuming yoghurt in late pregnancy

Probiotic milk consumption during pregnancy is linked with a reduction in the incidence of preeclampsia and premature birth, according to research published in BMJ Open

Probiotic milk intake in late pregnancy, but not before, or in early pregnancy, was significantly associated with a reduced risk of preeclampsia, a condition in which the mother’s body mounts an exaggerated inflammatory response which can lead to severe complications for mother and baby.

In addition, probiotic consumption during early pregnancy, but not before or during late pregnancy, was significantly associated with a reduced risk of premature birth, defined as delivery before 37 weeks of gestation.

The amount of probiotic consumed did not seem to make a difference.

The population-based prospective cohort study involved 70,149 first-time, singleton pregnancies resulting in live births. The mothers were asked to answer three questionnaires at week 15, week 22 and week 30 of their pregnancies. The second questionnaire was about food frequency, whereas the other two questionnaires covered health, exposures, lifestyle and other background factors.

In questionnaire one, the women were asked to report their consumption of probiotic products both prior to becoming pregnant and during pregnancy up until the time that the questionnaire was completed at week 15, defined as “early pregnancy”. Questionnaire three asked about consumption from week 13 until answering the questionnaire in week 30, which was defined as “late pregnancy”.

Just over 23% of the women said that they had consumed probiotic milk products before their pregnancy, 38% said that they had done so during early pregnancy and 32% said they had consumed probiotics during late pregnancy.

The researchers concluded that probiotics might have a protective effect against adverse pregnancy outcomes and timing of probiotic intake might be relevant. However, they said that the pathophysiological effect of probiotics on the maternal inflammatory response must be studied in more detail in randomised controlled trials.


[1] Nordqvist M, Jacobsson, B, Brantsæter A-L, et al. Timing of probiotic milk consumption during pregnancy and effects on the incidence of preeclampsia and preterm delivery: a prospective observational cohort study in Norway. BMJ Open 2018;8:e018021. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018021

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, January 2018;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20204285