Gut health in pregnancy


New studies by UNSW show a link between a woman's gut microbiome in pregnancy and health outcomes for child development and pregnancy progress.

The Microbiome Research Centre (MRC) at UNSW are conducting studies into the microbiomes of thousands of Australian pregnant women. According to the MRC a healthy gut microbiome "performs a range of useful duties, such as digesting food and regulating our immune system." Early results from this pioneering research is showing the fascinating changes that occur in a woman's microbiome during pregnancy. The MRC explain that in pregnancy, a woman's microbiome "shapes the health of her developing child and morphs as pregnancy progresses."

Should it [microbiome] become dysfunctional, it can lead to chronic conditions such as asthma and obesity — NSW Health & Medical Research

The study confirms that the connection between a mother's diet during pregnancy, effects not only their own gut health but that of their baby's overall health.

Alcohol and your gut

Alcohol effects your body in several ways; it can cause inflammation of your stomach and intestine lining, bleeding and diarrhoea, which is detrimental for your microbiome health. Alcohol can also cause pain and inflammation in your pancreas, which is the organ responsible for producing the enzymes needed for digestion.

Take a look at the interactive body diagram on our Alcohol page for more on the effects of alcohol on the body.

There is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy

Alcohol and pregnancy

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause serious health concerns for mother and baby. It can lead to miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight babies. Alcohol can also cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or FASD. The disabilities associated with FASD are permanent and can result in lifelong problems with learning, managing behaviour, mental health and a range of other disabilities that make children's lives very difficult. Some of the most common disabilities associated with FASD include:

  • Birth defects
  • Low IQ
  • Slow to grow
  • Poor memory
  • Problems with language
  • Problems with motor skills and
  • Be slower to develop mental, social and emotional skills.

While there is no cure for FASD, it is 100% preventable. Not drinking during pregnancy, planning pregnancy and breastfeeding, is the only way prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and its lifelong consequences.

If you still have any doubt about drinking alcohol being unsafe during pregnancy, watch this US public health campaign to hear directly from kids with FASD.

Help to stop drinking

Family and friends can be a great support when stopping drinking while pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding, some partners and family members will abstain in solidarity. But if receiving support is difficult, or you just need a little help, confidential and non-judgemental professional support is available or free through the Get Healthy in Pregnancy telephone coaching service.

Get help to stay healthy during pregnancy, contact the Get Healthy service on 1300 806 258 or online at The Get Healthy in Pregnancy program is a free confidential information and/or telephone coaching service for pregnant women in NSW aged 16 years and over.

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