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Maternal Gut Microbiota Changes and Periconceptional Diet

Written by
Dr Fathalla Ali, PHD Paediatrics


  • Manipulation of maternal diet during pre-pregnancy and pregnancy has been identified to impact fetal growth and development as a result of change in intrauterine environment (1).
  • In animal models, intrauterine growth restriction has been found to alter neonatal gut microbiota composition due to delays in the perinatal intestinal development (2).
  • The gut microbiota is considered a risk factor for some diseases due to its role in regulating energy extraction and body metabolism. This microbiota is essential for metabolizing indigestible polysaccharides, producing essential nutrients and regulating fat storage (1).
  • It has been found that different type of bacteria has varying degree of capacity to harvest energy and metabolize nutrients (3).
  • In animal studies, consumption of high fat diet before and during pregnancy was associated with gestational age-dependent manner shifts in the pattern of gut microbiota composition and these shifts predict significant differences in the abundance of bacteria that favour lipid metabolism, glucose breakdown and generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources (4).
  • Some human clinical studies reported that the gut microbiota of pregnant women appears to change over the course of pregnancy and that the first trimester microbiome is similar to that of the non-pregnant women (5).
  • Therefore, preconception period could present a window of opportunity for microbial intervention to establish a healthy gut microbiota during the period of pregnancy.

Keywords: Maternal diet, microbiota, pre-pregnancy, pregnancy


  1. Gohir, W., Ratcliffe, E. M., & Sloboda, D. M. (2015). Of the bugs that shape us: maternal obesity, the gut microbiome, and long-term disease risk. Pediatric research, 77(1-2), 196–204. Click here.

  2. Fança-Berthon, P., Hoebler, C., Mouzet, E., David, A., & Michel, C. (2010). Intrauterine growth restriction not only modifies the cecocolonic microbiota in neonatal rats but also affects its activity in young adult rats. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 51(4), 402–413. Click here

  3. Turnbaugh, P. J., Ley, R. E., Mahowald, M. A., Magrini, V., Mardis, E. R., & Gordon, J. I. (2006). An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature, 444(7122), 1027–1031. Click here.

  4. Gohir, W., Whelan, F. J., Surette, M. G., Moore, C., Schertzer, J. D., & Sloboda, D. M. (2015). Pregnancy-related changes in the maternal gut microbiota are dependent upon the mother’s periconceptional diet. Gut microbes, 6(5), 310–320. Click here.

  5. Collado, M. C., Isolauri, E., Laitinen, K., & Salminen, S. (2008). Distinct composition of gut microbiota during pregnancy in overweight and normal-weight women. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 88(4), 894–899. Click here.

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