Probiotics and gestational diabetes

By: Brightest Editors

November 14, 2017

Gestational diabetes – the inability to control blood sugar levels properly during pregnancy- is on the rise around the world. There are several reasons for this, one is related to the increased number of women who are obese or overweight even before they become pregnant [1]. The surge in gestational diabetes is a worrying development as it increases the risk of complications for the mother and the child during pregnancy and delivery. In addition, the child is more likely to become obese in early life and both mom and baby have an increased risk of suffering from Type 2 Diabetes. It might even put them at a higher risk of developing other non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, later in life.

Insulin is a hormone that helps the sugar from food enter parts of the body where it is needed. To make sure the baby gets enough energy to grow, even in normal pregnancies, insulin is reduced allowing sugar to stay in the blood longer (at higher levels) so that enough can be absorbed by the baby. This reduction in insulin is called insulin resistance [2]. For reasons not well understood, some women cannot properly adjust to these changes and they develop gestational diabetes.

A healthy, balanced diet accompanied by moderate physical exercise can help reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes. Moms should avoid gaining too much weight during pregnancy, which can also be achieved through a healthy diet and moderate levels of exercise. However, we all know this is what we should be doing, but experience shows us that it is often difficult to change and adopt a healthy lifestyle particularly during pregnancy [3].


The bacteria in our gut play an important role in the development of gestational diabetes as they can influence the metabolic pathways used to absorb, store and use sugars and fats from the diet. As pregnancy progresses, the bacteria in our gut change due to a range of factors such as increased levels of specific hormones. This seems to contribute to the way the body deals with blood sugar during pregnancy. Modifying the composition of the gut microbiota might help us reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes [4].

Even though only a limited number of studies have tested the effect of probiotic supplementation during pregnancy on the development of gestational diabetes, the results are promising. In a recent study, women received the supplements early in pregnancy. As a result, the number of women in the study who developed gestational diabetes was reduced from approximately 35 percent to 13 percent and their blood sugar levels were much better controlled [5, 6]. Probiotics have been widely used in the general population, during pregnancy and in early life and the strains tested can safely be used during pregnancy [7].

A healthy diet and moderate levels of exercise should be the overall goal – not only during pregnancy.



1.  Zhu, Y. and C. Zhang, Prevalence of Gestational Diabetes and Risk of Progression to Type 2 Diabetes: a Global Perspective. Current Diabetes Reports, 2016. 16(1): p. 1-11.
2.  Simmons, D., Prevention of gestational diabetes mellitus: Where are we now? Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 2015. 17(9): p. 824-834.
3.  Griffin, C., Probiotics in obstetrics and gynaecology. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2015. 55(3): p. 201-209.
4.  Isolauri, E., et al., Role of probiotics in reducing the risk of gestational diabetes. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 2015. 17(8): p. 713-719.
5.  Luoto, R., et al., Impact of maternal probiotic-supplemented dietary counselling on pregnancy outcome and prenatal and postnatal growth: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. British Journal of Nutrition, 2010. 103(12): p. 1792-1799.
6.  Laitinen, K., T. Poussa, and E. Isolauri, Probiotics and dietary counselling contribute to glucose regulation during and after pregnancy: a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition, 2009. 101(11): p. 1679-1687.
7.  Hashemi, A., C.R. Villa, and E.M. Comelli, Probiotics in early life: a preventative and treatment approach. Food & Function, 2016. 7(4): p. 1752-1768.

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