Dealing with Lactose Intolerance During Pregnancy

If you are lactose intolerant, you have probably already found ways to deal with it on a daily basis. However, when you become pregnant, a new set of challenges presents itself. Getting all the calcium you need can be a challenge without milk or milk products, but there is no reason it can’t be done.

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose, a form of sugar found in dairy products, is broken down in the digestive system by lactase, an enzyme produced in the small intestine. When the body has a deficiency in production of lactase, lactose can’t be digested properly, resulting in painful abdominal problems. This is known as lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance is not the same as being allergic to milk products although they are often confused. Lactose intolerance generally does not develop until later in life, unlike milk allergies which are common in infancy.

What are the Symptoms?

Not all people who are lactose intolerant have noticeable symptoms, but for some they can be quite severe. Symptoms occur about 30 minutes after consuming milk products and can include gas, abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea and nausea.

Getting Enough Calcium

The solution to lactose intolerance sounds like a simple one; those suffering from it need only stop consuming dairy products to avoid the symptoms. This is true, but unfortunately dairy products are the best source of calcium in our diets. When you are pregnant, calcium becomes even more important than ever, and your need for it increases. This can make it even more difficult to obtain enough from non-dairy sources.

It might be difficult, but it’s not impossible to get enough calcium, especially with some help from fortified foods. Many juices, especially orange juice, are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. The vitamin D is important because it helps your body to absorb the calcium. Read the label to make sure your choice contains both. Leafy green vegetables and some fish can also be good sources of calcium. Soy milk is a good replacement for cow’s milk that can also provide your body with calcium.

Some people with lactose intolerance use special medications that allow the body to digest lactose. These are generally considered to be safe during pregnancy, but as with any medication, it should be discussed with your doctor first.

Concerns About the Baby

Luckily, lactose intolerance in the mother is not likely to do any damage to the baby, as long as you make sure to find enough calcium sources to make up for not eating dairy products. Lactose intolerance does seem to have a genetic link, which means there is a possibility you could pass it on to the baby. It won’t likely affect the baby until later in life, however, but you should consider breastfeeding as opposed to milk-based formulas as a precaution.

Premature babies are considered to be at a higher risk for lactose intolerance, so if you want to protect your baby as best you can, take every possible precaution to avoid a premature delivery.

As long as you get enough calcium to support the baby as well as your own body during pregnancy, no matter what the source, lactose intolerance won’t be detrimental to your pregnancy. There is no reason you can’t have a perfectly normal and healthy pregnancy, and a very healthy baby!

Leave a Reply