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Probiotics for reducing the risk of gestational diabetes during pregnancy

Research shows: 

Regular probiotic supplements may reduce the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) in healthy pregnant women.


Probiotics (also known as friendly bacteria) could help reduce the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) in healthy pregnant women, according to research. The review into the outcome of 10 trials involving nearly 3,000 pregnant women, showed:  

  • Supplementing with multi-strained probiotics may reduce the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) by one third.
  • Taking probiotics was likely to be more effective for mums-to-be before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Probiotics, especially Lactobacillusspecies, demonstrated the ability to reduce the risk of dysbiosis and help control and improve glucose levels.


What is gestational diabetes mellitus?

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a health challenge during pregnancy and is associated with adverse effects. Gestational diabetes mellitus is defined as irregular glucose metabolism occurring during the second or third trimester of pregnancy.

Various risk factors were identified for GDM, including ethnicity, older maternal age, increased body mass index (BMI), family history of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and previous history of GDM. Dysbiosis is the imbalance in the gut microbial within the stomach associated with the disease. This imbalance could be due to the gain, loss or change in the quality of microbes. Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota can play a role in developing inflammation and insulin resistance observed in those with GDM.

Could probiotics be the answer?

Probiotics can be influential in preventing GDM by altering the composition of microbiota in the intestine. According to the contribution of gut dysbiosis in developing metabolic disorders, probiotics can maintain the balance and composition of gut microbiota. Probiotics are live microorganisms benefiting the host's health when administered in sufficient amounts. Evidence regarding the composition of gut microbiota in pregnant women indicated a beneficial change along with adiposity, inflammation and insulin resistance.

What the research shows

An analysis of 10 research articles, involving 2,921 participants without diagnosed glucose disturbance, aimed to evaluate the efficacy of probiotics supplementation on GDM prevention and its maternal and infantile impacts among pregnant women with pre-pregnancy normal glucose levels1. The criteria used to ensure a non-bias approach in each clinical trial used were women participating had normal glucose levels before pregnancy, used either probiotic food or supplements, had a comparator of either a placebo or no probiotics and had an outcome of GDM occurrence or an adverse outcome. Out of 10 trials, 8 trials used multiple species and two studies used only a single species probiotic. The species were Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus salivarius, Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus paracasei, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis, and Streptococcus thermophilus.

GDM as a crucial health problem has been a challenge in recent years, and efforts toward preventing and managing this threat are continuing. It was revealed that multi-strained probiotics supplementation could decrease the incidence of GDM by 33%, indicating the preventive role of probiotics for those with GDM.


Probiotics, especially Lactobacillus species, have evidence to prove the ability to reduce the risk of this infection and help control and improve glucose parameters and control in pregnant women. The main strength of this systematic review and meta-analysis is the comprehensive search and the relatively higher number of studies included in comparison with previous meta-analyses. It was concluded that administration before 20 weeks of pregnancy and using multi-strain probiotics are more probable to be effective. Further findings summarised that the probiotic strain Lactobacillus was the most popular and successful species used in studies which discovered a preventive effect.

Author: Katy Grieshaber is a Nutrition Advisor at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc (Hons), in Food, Nutrition and Health and a Masters’ degree in Public Health.


  1. Pakmehr A, Ejtahed H-S, Shirzad N, Hemmatabadi M, Farhat S, Larijani B. Preventive effect of probiotics supplementation on occurrence of gestational diabetes mellitus: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Frontiers in Medicine. 2022Dec1;9.


The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


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