Women's Healthcare Topics

Is Being Lactose Intolerant Problematic for My Pregnancy?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Lactose Intolerance Can be a Problem for Both You and Your Baby

When you are lactose intolerant, your body cannot make enough lactase – which is an enzyme required for digesting lactose (the sugar in milk and dairy products). So when you drink cow's milk or eat dairy, the undigested lactose ends up causing you to become bloated, have gas, diarrhea, and experience other gastrointestinal problems.

Lactose intolerance can be problematic in pregnancy, since cow's milk and other dairy products are the best methods of getting calcium in your diet. During pregnancy, you should get 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day.

If you suffer from lactose intolerance make sure to take extra calcium in pregnancy.

Your baby depends on your calcium supply to help build strong bones and teeth, and to help him develop a healthy heart, muscles, nerves, and more.

If you suffer from lactose intolerance in pregnancy, you may need to take a calcium supplement. In addition, you'll want to get calcium from non-dairy food sources. Calcium can be found in leafy green vegetables (like spinach and collard greens), canned salmon, sardines, calcium-fortified soy milk, fortified orange juice, and tofu.

Many grocery stores have lactose-free milk and other dairy products available, so that is another way for you to get the calcium you need during pregnancy.

Most prenatal vitamins only contain 150 or 200 milligrams of calcium, so you should take an additional supplement to meet your daily requirement. However, you shouldn't take 1,200 milligrams of calcium all at once, because your body can only absorb 500 milligrams at a time. Break up your supplemental calcium into smaller doses.

You don't want to overdo it. Getting too much calcium can lead to constipation (which is a very common compliant in pregnancy), and it increases your risk of getting kidney stones. Excessive calcium can also prevent proper absorption of zinc and iron from foods. Your total daily consumption of calcium (from supplements, drinks and food) should not exceed 2,500 milligrams.

Keep in mind that Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium. You'll want to also get enough vitamin D into your diet by having regular exposure to sunlight, and by eating eggs, fish, and other vitamin D fortified foods. You can also take a vitamin D supplement.

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