Pregnancy and the Prevention of Allergies in Children (By Silvian M Sarsero)


Eczema, food allergy, rhinitis (hayfever) and asthma are health conditions known as the ‘allergic march’ because they will occur in this order.  The diagnosis of allergies has risen sharply in the past two to three decades with up to 30% of children worldwide being diagnosed with atopic eczema and one in 20 children developing food allergies within their first year of life. Common triggers include egg, cow’s milk, peanut, tree nuts, seafood, sesame, soy, fish and wheat.  Asthma is also one of the most chronic health conditions to affect children worldwide and is rising by 50% every year.  These statistics are alarming and create concern amongst parents who are expecting a child.   Many parents wonder if there is anything that can be done during pregnancy to try to prevent their children from suffering with allergies.


There have been many theories presented by the media about the reason for this sharp climb in statistics with the latest research indicating the importance of having an abundance of healthy gut microbiota (bacteria) during pregnancy.  The theory behind this is that by consuming probiotics during third trimester, the mother may be able to help prevent the disruption of healthy gut microbiota during early life of the unborn child, which may aid the immune system to be better able to deal with allergens.


The term ‘probiotic’ became familiar in the 1960s and means ‘for life’.  It is defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts as part of food, confer a beneficial health effect by producing gut microflora on the host’.  These microorganisms may be found naturally in yoghurt and other fermented foods such as Kefir, Sauerkraut or Kimchi, Miso soup, Pickles, Tempeh and Kombucha Tea.  Probiotic supplements are also widely available.


Clinical research has shown that consuming probiotics is not actually an effective treatment when given to children who have already been diagnosed with eczema, although there is some proof that supplementation of the mother with Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 during pregnancy, as well as during breast-feeding, may reduce eczema in infants.  A Canadian study in 2015 also found that the babies who had low levels of specific bacteria in their stools, would go on to develop early signs of asthma such as wheezing and skin allergies by the age of one.  This study clearly showed a link between gut bacteria and asthma in children.


Probiotics need prebiotics.  Prebiotics are a dietary fibre that feeds the friendly bacteria (probiotics) in the gut and found in foods such as garlic, onion, asparagus, leeks and bananas.  Natural childbirth will enable prebiotics to be passed on to the baby as it exposes the newborn to vaginal microbiota, which resembles that of the intestinal microbiota of the mother.  Breast milk also contains prebiotics. Although natural childbirth and breast-feeding will help to play a significant role in the prevention of allergies in children, it’s not entirely possible for the expectant mum to know whether she will be able to deliver naturally or be able to breast-feed.  This is why it’s important to ensure that your diet is a healthy and well balanced one that includes prebiotics as well as probiotics, via fermented foods or supplements, especially in that third trimester, as it may be helpful in the prevention of allergies in your newborn child.


About Our Guest Writer: 

Silvian M Sarsero (BCompMed) at foodmaze health coaching, is a  ‘Health Mentor’ who specialises in helping new mums get back to being their healthiest and most energetic selves, naturally.  For more helpful information or a personal booking, please click on the following link, for more information on the introduction of foods to infants, including those considered to be highly allergenic, please visit the ‘Allergy’ page of the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website at

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