Depression: Probiotics might help during pregnancy

A recent stream of scientific research believes that probiotics can be a valid solution to treat and prevent depression in pregnancy.

Lo studio della Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

According to a  study   conducted in 2013, 15% of women suffer from depression during pregnancy.

If it is not treated during the nine months of waiting, this disease risks resolving itself in an increase in the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

But it could also lead to a whole other set of complications:

  • problems during pregnancy or childbirth;
  • a low birth weight of the baby;
  • a premature birth.

“The period of gestation is not an easy time for the woman and if there has been a previous history of depression or anxiety, it is highly likely that it will recur during the 40 weeks of pregnancy,” she said in an interview with the magazine. Quartz, Dr. Tamar Gur, of Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University.

The state of searches

On the one hand, the medical community has so far not seemed to be able to give a unanimous answer on the use of antidepressants in pregnancy.

On the other hand, a recent line of research believes that probiotics could be an alternative solution, safe and effective, to treat and prevent – in pregnant women – the symptoms of this disease.

Prenatal stress appears to be linked to changes in intestinal bacteria in the fetus.

According to a  recent study  by Dr. Carolina de Weerth (of Radboud University Nijmegen), published in the journal  Psychoneuroendrocrinology , those children whose mothers had lived with high levels of stress during pregnancy had higher levels of pathogenic bacteria in their intestines and lower levels of the “good” ones.

According to the results of this study, children born to mothers suffering from anxiety or depression were also those with a greater likelihood of developing allergies and intestinal disorders. 

According to  recent research , conducted by Dr. Gur, stress-induced changes in the microbial communities present in the maternal intestine can also influence the development of the brain of the future unborn child.

Both de Weerth and Gur agree that maternal stress could be alleviated if the mother takes probiotics during pregnancy. “We don’t know which bacterial strains work for this purpose, and whether they actually positively influence the maternal intestinal microbiota,” de Weerth said in an interview with Quarz magazine.

But a randomized, controlled trial with a group given a placebo showed that two strains of “good” bacteria known as Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum, given for 30 days, had reduced anxiety, depression , anger and hostility in the subjects observed during the experiment.


More research is certainly needed to better clarify the beneficial effects of probiotics. At the moment, however, the premises seem positive.

Despite these possibilities of obtaining benefits from taking probiotics, there are still few mothers who use them consciously, and few doctors who prescribe them for preventive purposes.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform,

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