Exploring the maternal gut microbiome during the lactational period


Researchers presented their oral abstract on the association between lactation and the gut microbiome during the SMFM 42nd Annual Pregnancy Meeting.

An oral concurrent session presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) 42nd Annual Pregnancy Meeting explored the association between lactation and the gut microbiome and their long-term effect on cardiometabolic diseases (CMD).1

With breastfeeding (BF) being linked to a reduction in maternal risk of CMD, Adetola F. Louis-Jacques, MD, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, Florida, along with her coauthors, sought to determine the influence of breastfeeding on gut microbiome diversity, as well as the composition in women 6 months postpartum.

Adetola F. Louis-Jacques, MD

Adetola F. Louis-Jacques, MD

“There are known maternal benefits for lactation. Breastfeeding has been associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and cardiovascular disease, in particular hypertension,” said Louis-Jacques.

In the study, demographics, clinical data, and maternal stool were collected from 98 women in the first 6 months postpartum, with 94 participants completing the study. Stool samples were classified into 2 periods based on median sample collection timepoint (T1: < =130 days and T2: >130 days). Samples were then divided into 2 BF groups. Exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) indicates 100% BF (N=72) and non-EBF indicates less than 100% BF (N=26).

Results of the study demonstrated a significant difference in gut microbiota beta diversity according to lactational status, with the difference becoming more pronounced as time passed. Also, sample richness and evenness did not differ by lactational status for alpha diversity.

Prevotellaceae and Preveotella 9 were lower and Ruminococcus 2 was higher in the postpartum period in stool samples from the EBF group. Additionally, Enterobacteriaceae was enriched earlier in the postpartum period in stool samples from the EBF group.

Researchers also discovered differences in gut microbiota community between the BF groups at T1 and T2. Linear mixed models demonstrated that none of the covariates had a significant influence on gut microbiota richness or diversity.

The authors concluded that the postpartum period is an opportunity to address disease prevention and lactation offers a significant preventative strategy Also, gut microbes may be a mediator between maternal BF status and CMD.

“While our data are completing and provides rational exploring gut microbiome differences by lactational status, they are incomplete because phenotype cannot be predicted with composition alone,” said Louis-Jacques.

In the future, Louis-Jacques and her coauthors aim to investigate the influence of microbial composition on postpartum cardiometabolic measures.


Louis-Jacques AF, Lemas DJ, Xu K, et al. Maternal gut microbiome during the lactational period. Oral concurrent session. Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine 42nd Annual Pregnancy Meeting. Virtual. February 2, 2022.

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