Probiotics during pregnancy are really important for the health and well-being of both mom and baby. But not all probiotics and fermented foods are safe during pregnancy. Here is everything you need to know about fermented foods for prenatal care.
Why do probiotics matter?
When I was pregnant I really wanted to give my babies the best possible start, so I took a high-quality prenatal supplement that included some probiotics. At the time I didn’t know about the importance of fermented foods, nor the fact that probiotic supplements aren’t always effective.
However, since then a lot of research has been done on the role of the microbiome in promoting the health of mothers and babies. A few findings include:
- Preventing the development of allergies.
- Healthy brain development.
- Supporting a healthy pregnancy by reducing the rate of strep B
Fermented foods for Pregnancy
- They are more likely to survive digestion.
- Fermenting at home actually provides the best source of probiotics by increasing the probiotic wild yeasts and bacteria that are naturally in the air of your home.
However, not all fermented foods are safe for pregnancy. In general, you should stay away from mold-based ferments, fermented meat, eggs, and raw cheese. And if fermented foods were not something you ate prior to your pregnancy, then start with eating small amounts, to make sure that it works well for you.
I recommend talking to your healthcare provider before adding fermented foods into your diet.
Here are a few fermented foods to consider during pregnancy.
While sourdough bread is not actually probiotic, there are probiotic benefits to making your own sourdough bread.
Sourdough is heavily based on natural yeasts and bacteria in the air of your home. It takes time to build a nice, healthy sourdough starter, which is in part due to the time required to cultivate those strains of yeast and bacteria in your home.
Making sourdough at home will give you a dose of probiotics on your skin and in your lungs. If you regularly make gluten sourdough, then try gluten-free sourdough for a bit of a different culture. Each type of flour has its own unique blend of sourdough cultures.
Yogurt is the go-to option for store-bought fermented foods for pregnancy. It is easy and super delicious! Here are a few tips to get the best dose of probiotics from store-bought yogurt.
- Avoid anything that’s been sweetened. You can always add jam or chocolate sauce after the fact. Sweetened and heavily processed yogurts generally have more thickeners than active culture.
- Buy a different brand of yogurt each time you shop. Each brand will have its own blend of cultures, so trying a bunch of different yogurts will give you good diversity.
- From my experience, goat yogurt and sheep yogurt both have really active cultures. I’m not sure why, but even fancy organic yogurt brands don’t have as good a culture as goat milk yogurt!
Your favorite ferments
If you were already really into fermenting before you got pregnant, then you may want to keep making your favorite fermented foods. Here are a few suggestions:
- Discuss it with your healthcare practitioner. They may have advice on whether you should keep drinking kefir or eating sauerkraut.
- Discard anything that doesn’t look or smell exactly right. If you’ve been making ginger bug for a while, then you know exactly what it should look like.
- If you haven’t made ferments yourself and want more than just yogurt and sourdough, then buy fermented foods from a reputable source. I particularly recommend sauerkraut.
Feed your Microbiome
A healthy microbiome needs more than just probiotic foods. A healthy diet includes lots of vegetables, protein, and high-fiber foods. It’s also important to avoid sugar and other sweeteners.
Here are some more details on what to eat for a healthy microbiome.