Pregnancy is hard enough without the worry of preeclampsia (PE). In this dangerous disorder, high blood pressure and signs of damage to multiple organs can lead to serious— even fatal — complications for both the baby and mother. It is the second leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide.
The cause is unclear.
There is some recent evidence that gut microbes may be involved, given their involvement in inflammation and immune response as well as a role in blood pressure.
Microbes and preeclampsia
One recent study examined the changes of gut microbiota in women with early-onset PE and in normotensive, uncomplicated pregnant women.
At Guangdong Women and Children Hospital in China, the gut microbiota of 101 fecal samples of PE patients and 79 samples of healthy controls, separately in antepartum (before birth), 1 and 6 weeks postpartum (after birth) were analyzed with 16S rRNA gene sequencing.
- The gut microbiota in PE patients remarkably differed from that in normal pregnant women throughout the evaluation periods.
- Eight bacterial genera were significantly enriched in the antepartum samples of PE patients compared to healthy controls.
- Conversely, five genera were significantly depleted in antepartum PE samples.
In a literature search of the above bacteria, the authors found strong links to host diseases as well as correlations to host immune parameters and function markers. Clearly, PE patients harbor an inflammation-associated microbiota. An excellent summary is presented in the paper.
More dysbiosis and preeclampsia links
Adding to the evidence, research reported in 2020 in Gut journal, found that patients with PE showed reduced bacterial diversity with obvious dysbiosis.
“Opportunistic pathogens, particularly Fusobacterium and Veillonella, were enriched, whereas beneficial bacteria, including Faecalibacterium and Akkermansia, were markedly depleted in the PE group. The abundances of these discriminative bacteria were correlated with blood pressure (BP), proteinuria, aminotransferase and creatinine levels.”
The second part of the research used fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in an antibiotic-treated mouse model.
The gut microbiome from PE patients prompted a dramatic increase in pregestational blood pressure of the mice as well as a bigger rise after gestation. Strikingly, the transplanted mice showed increased proteinuria, embryonic resorption and lower fetal and placental weights.
The gut microbiota of patients with preeclampsia is remarkably dysbiotic. Furthermore, the evidence suggests a causal link and not just an association. That means that dysbiosis may be contributing to preeclampsia.
This is big; management of PE today is limited to treating symptoms or termination of the pregnancy. Preventing dysbiosis may be one alternative.
As for today, mind your microbes:
- Eat lots of fermented foods and prebiotic fibers (to feed the probiotics).
- And ask your dietitian about taking a multi-strain probiotic supplement.
You and your baby will benefit.