I'm pregnant and lactose intolerant. How can I make sure I get enough calcium during my pregnancy?

Answers from Roger W. Harms, M.D.

For many women, the ability to digest lactose improves during pregnancy, especially later in pregnancy. As a result, even if you're normally lactose intolerant, you might be able to drink milk and eat other dairy products without discomfort.

Calcium helps build your baby's bones and teeth. The Institute of Medicine recommends 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day during pregnancy. Pregnant teens need 1,300 milligrams a day. It can be hard to meet this requirement if you don't include milk or other dairy products in your diet.

However, if you experience lactose intolerance during pregnancy or dislike milk or other dairy products, consider these tips:

  • Choose other calcium-rich foods, such as sardines, salmon with bones, tofu, broccoli, spinach, and calcium-fortified juices and foods.
  • Take calcium supplements.
  • Many people who are lactose intolerant can usually drink small portions of milk, such as a half cup, with a meal and have minimal or no symptoms.
  • Try lactose-free or lactose-reduced products, including milk, cheese and yogurt.
  • Yogurt and fermented products, such as cheeses, are often better tolerated than is regular milk. The lactose in yogurt is already partially digested by the active bacteria cultures in yogurt.

If you're concerned about how much calcium you're getting, talk to your health care provider.

Jan. 13, 2015 See more Expert Answers