Lactose Intolerance in Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Lactose Intolerance During Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed By
Megha Mukhija (Paediatric Nutritionist)
View more Paediatric Nutritionist Our Panel of Experts

Calcium is very important for you in your pregnancy, as it is important for optimal foetal growth and development, mainly for building your baby’s bones and teeth. Milk is a preferred source of calcium, but if you are lactose intolerant, then you will be advised not to drink milk. However, there are other dietary sources that may help you fulfil your body’s daily requirement of calcium.

Let us see what the causes, symptoms and treatments are for lactose intolerance in pregnancy and what can be done to manage your condition.

What Is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose is a kind of sugar that is mainly present in animal milk and other kinds of dairy products. When your body cannot produce enough lactase, an enzyme that is required to digest lactose, you become lactose intolerant. If you have this condition, then the lactose you consume may sit in your intestine and not get digested; this may lead to gastrointestinal problems. Lactose intolerance may cause extreme discomfort, but it is not a serious ailment. However, it is important to remember that lactose intolerance and cow milk allergy are not the same. Cow milk allergy may occur when your immune system reacts to cow’s milk by showing an allergic reaction because of the protein in cow’s milk. Though the symptoms of both these conditions may appear the same, they are very different from each other.

Apart from general intolerance, a common question arises in pregnant women’s minds  – ‘Can you become lactose intolerant while pregnant?’ If you have also had this question once, we recommend continue reading to get the answers.

What Causes Lactose Intolerance in Pregnancy?

If you are thinking, ‘Can pregnancy cause lactose intolerance’ the answer is a little complicated. Lactose intolerance and pregnancy have a complicated relationship. Pregnancy hormones may cause many changes in your body, and your digestive tract may get affected too. Your immune system makes everything slow, and that may affect the way your food gets digested, too; this may sometimes make you think that you are lactose intolerant. However, that may not be the case. On the other hand, if you are already battling lactose intolerance, then pregnancy may reduce your symptoms. Here are some known causes of lactose intolerance in pregnancy:

  • It may occur due to genetic reasons.
  • It may occur in case your small intestines get injured; this may hamper the production of lactase.

So as you can see, pregnancy does not directly cause lactose intolerance, but it changes your body in such a way that digesting milk becomes hard.

What Causes Lactose Intolerance in Pregnancy?

Signs and Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

You may notice these signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance during pregnancy as soon as you consume anything that contains lactose:

How is Lactose Intolerance Diagnosed?

As soon as you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is important that you seek immediate medical help. Your doctor will come to a deduction based on your symptoms and may advise you to avoid dairy-based goods for a few days to see whether or not you are lactose intolerant.

In some cases, pregnancy symptoms may get confused with lactose intolerance because nausea, vomiting and cramping are the common side effects of pregnancy too. Your doctor may conduct a blood test to make a correct diagnosis.

How to Get Enough Calcium?

Milk is rich in calcium, and when you are lactose intolerant, you will have to look for other healthy alternatives to compensate for your body’s growing calcium needs in pregnancy. Here are some of the options that you may consider:

1. Consuming Whole Grains and Nuts

Consuming Whole Grains and Nuts

Various kinds of nuts, such as almonds, walnuts and pulses, contain a good amount of calcium in them. Consuming them on a regular basis takes care of your calcium requirements. Being rich in antioxidants, nuts are excellent for the development of your baby’s bones and collagen.

2. Eat Broccoli


Broccoli is not only rich in calcium, but you also get good amounts of iron and other minerals from it too.

3. Go Green

Green leafy vegetables

Green leafy vegetables have good amounts of calcium in them and, thus, including them in your daily diet will be a good idea. One such leafy vegetable is spinach, which is high in calcium, iron and other vitamins.

4. Tofu and Soy Milk


Soy milk is a good substitute for milk and provides ample calcium to your body. You may include soy milk and tofu in your diet too.

5. Almond Milk

Almond milk

Almond milk is a delicious way to meet your calcium requirements. It is also rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

You can include any of the above-mentioned options for a lactose-free milk pregnancy; however, it is important that, before you make any amends in your pregnancy diet, you consult your health practitioner.

How to Treat Lactose Intolerance During Pregnancy?

Lactose intolerance cannot be treated, but it can be managed. Here are some ways to help you manage  lactose intolerance during pregnancy:

1. Diet

On average, you are required to consume 1000 mg of calcium in a day during pregnancy. You may add various food items that are rich in calcium, such as okra, beans, spinach, salmon, etc. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. You may eat eggs or expose yourself to sunlight for some time to meet your body’s requirement of Vitamin D. Eating fortified foods, such as orange juice and bread, is very effective in pepping up your Vitamin D intake.

2. Multivitamins

You can also take prenatal vitamins to compensate for your body’s requirement of calcium. Make sure these multivitamins have the required amount of calcium and Vitamin D, or you can take calcium and Vitamin D in addition to your multivitamins.

Can Lactose Intolerance Affect Your Baby?

Lactose intolerance does not affect your baby because your baby will meet its calcium requirement by drawing the calcium from your teeth and bones. This means that even if you do not consume enough calcium during pregnancy, your baby will still take it from you. But this puts the mother at the risk of having devastating long-term problems. Therefore, it is important that you meet your body’s calcium requirements by making some dietary amends and taking calcium supplements.

Can Lactose Intolerance in Pregnancy Be Prevented?

Lactose intolerance cannot be prevented, but in order to avoid sudden lactose intolerance during pregnancy, you may adopt the following measures:

  • You should maintain a food diary and make entries of the foods that you consume. In this way, you will be able to establish your triggers.
  • You will need to eliminate locatose products from your diet. This works best in keeping you away from lactose intolerance.
  • Always check the food labels to check for the ingredients and avoid the ones that have lactose in them.
  • Whenever you are eating out, you may ask to avoid any dairy products in your dish.
  • Over-the-counter medicines for gas or acidity pills may contain lactose. Therefore, when buying such OTC medications, remember to check their labels to see if they contain lactose.
  • If you are unsure of the non-lactose OTCs, consult a doctor to prescribe you medicines.

In case you feel that you have lactose intolerance in the third trimester or the early trimester, it is suggested that you get in touch with your doctor. Your doctor may conduct various tests to detect lactose intolerance. It is also suggested that you should not make any changes in your diet without consulting your doctor.


1. Treating Lactose Intolerance During Pregnancy; American Pregnancy Association;

2. Lactose intolerance; Mayo Clinic;

3. Lactose Intolerance; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases;

4. David. P, Theodore. B, George. G; Pregnancy and lactose intolerance; The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 
Volume 26, Issue 3, Pages 238-240; ScienceDirect;; March 1973

5. Lactose intolerance; NHS;

6. Pregnancy and lactose intolerance: How do you get enough calcium?; Augusta Health;

7. Healthy Eating Guidelines for Managing Lactose Intolerance; Dieticians of Canada;,-managing-lactose-intolerance.pdf

Also Read:

Stomach Pain during Pregnancy
Gluten Intolerance in Pregnancy
Eating Spicy Food while Pregnant

Previous article «
Next article »