For something of such importance and in such abundance in our body, our microbiome is isn’t spoken enough about throughout preconception and maternity care. Bacterial cells outnumber our human cells 10:1, they govern many of our body’s important functions such as digestion, hormone release and our overall health, both physical and mental.
So what do our microbes do?
They create a balanced ecosystem and control the growth of fungus, bacteria and infection.
In your gut, they produce small amounts of vitamins.
They assist with digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Regulate immune function.
Play a role in the production of hormones.
Regulate mood through the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin.
It’s said that your brain mirrors your gut, this is why what you eat is so important. Ultimately, if you feed your body bad food, you’re going to feel it. If you’ve received any nutritional advice from me you would know my personal slogan, that is to avoid anything ‘pre-made, packaged or processed’. Processed sugar and high amounts of carbohydrates feed the wrong sorts of bacteria. When the bacterial balance is disrupted that is when you have overgrowth of harmful bacteria (dysbiosis) and when your body and your mental health pay for it.
Due to our exposure to processed foods, alcohol, environmental chemicals, stress and antibiotics, we would all benefit from improving our microbiome.
Firstly, we need to create a healthy environment for the good bacteria to strive. Nutritional and lifestyle changes is the most important step. If you would like to work together for individualised support and guidance on nutrition and life-style support to optimise your health and microbiome, read more here.
Secondly, you can take probiotics. Probiotics act to appease dysbiosis and attempt to increase the number of good bacteria. However, not all probiotics are equal. Part 2 of this post will offer some advice on choosing the right probiotics for your needs.
Lastly, avoiding unnecessary antibiotics. Antibiotics do not know the difference between good and bad bacteria. They take it all out and can disrupt your microbiome for to two-four years, with some strains never recovering.
So what is you microbiomes role in conception?
Preconception: Helps to create a healthy vaginal environment and impacts on the environment for sperm to survive in. If you would like more in depth information on how to prepare for pregnancy, read more about what we offer here.
The microbes which reside in our reproductive organs and fluids influence hormone production which is essential for ovulation, embryo maturation, sperm count and motility.
Dysbiosis of microbes in these areas may present as; thrush, bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted infections or offensive smelling discharge. Infections and the over growth of bad bacteria in reproductive organs can impact on your ability to conceive.
Endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome: Both of these reproductive health issues can be related to chronic inflammation. Our microbes have influence over our bodies immune functions. A dysregulation of immune responses can result in chronic hyper-inflammation.
Miscarriage and preterm birth: Not having optimal microbiome can also be the cause of miscarriage and preterm birth because of infection or inflammation. Particularly bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and urinary tract infections.
Optimising nutritional status: Our bacteria also play a role in producing small amounts of vitamins. The microbes in our bowels are responsible for producing B and K vitamins. Both of these play an extremely important role in pregnancy. B vitamins work in conjunction with haemoglobin and can help optimise your iron levels. Low B12 can lead to nausea and poor energy levels. Blood loss at birth and in the postpartum period can leave you drained and tired, that’s why increasing your iron and B vitamin levels prior to conception and leading up to birth is extremely important. If you struggle with getting enough iron or B vitamins in your diet, then have a look at the high-quality products we stock in our store.
Vitamin K is also essential during birth, it is an important factor which helps to clot our blood. You may know that this is an injection offered to your baby soon after birth. Boosting your own levels of vitamin K will help increase what you’re passing to your baby in breast milk.
Thanks for reading, I know it’s a long one, but this is information I am just so passionate about sharing, as it really does have the potential to improve your bodies functions and the health of your pregnancy and baby. It’s just such an important aspect of providing holistic midwifery care.
Stay tuned for Microbiome part 2: Pregnancy, postpartum and important info when choosing probiotics.
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Microbirth school course content- pregnancy and the infant microbiome.