Background: Adequate nutrition is essential during pregnancy and lactation to provide sufficient energy and nutrients to meet the nutritional requirements of the mother, fetus and infant. The primary objective of this study was to assess the effect of a maternal nutritional supplement enriched with probiotics during pregnancy and early lactation on the incidence of infant diarrhea.
Methods: Healthy, pregnant (24-28 weeks gestation) women were randomized 1:1:1 to receive either no supplement or two servings per day of an oral supplement (140 kcal/serving) providing 7.9 g protein, multivitamin/minerals, and enriched or not with the probiotics Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis, from the third trimester of pregnancy until at least 2 months post-delivery. Incidence of infant diarrhea until 12 months post-delivery was analyzed by Poisson regression. The effect on maternal health, fetal growth, and infant growth and morbidity were also evaluated and analyzed by ANOVA.
Results: A total of 208 mother/infant pairs were included in the analysis. No significant difference in the incidence of infant diarrhea was observed between the three study groups. The mean maternal weight gains at delivery were similar among groups, despite an increase in caloric intake in the supplemented groups. No statistically significant differences between groups were observed in incidence of pregnancy-related or fetal adverse outcomes. Mean weight-, length-, BMI- and head circumference-for-age z-scores were below the WHO median value for all groups. Post-hoc analysis to compare the effect of the combined supplement groups versus the no supplement group on infant growth parameters showed, at 12 months, that the combined supplemented group had gained statistically significant more weight (8.97 vs. 8.61 kg, p = 0.001) and height (74.2 vs. 73.4 cm, p = 0.031), and had a higher weight-for-age z-score (- 0.62 vs. -0.88, p = 0.045) than the no supplement group.
Conclusions: Maternal nutritional supplement with or without probiotics given during late pregnancy and early lactation was well tolerated and safe. Even though no difference in incidence of infant diarrhea was observed between the three groups, the analysis of the combined supplemented groups showed beneficial effects of maternal supplementation on infant weight and length gains at 12 months.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrial.gov: NCT01073033 . Registered 17.02.2010.
Keywords: Bifidobacterium lactis; Diarrhea; Infant growth; Lactobacillus rhamnosus; Maternal supplementation; Probiotics; Safety.