The human body experiences a lot of intense changes during pregnancy, from weight gain/loss to hormonal fluctuations, posture changes, and more. But some pregnant individuals even experience changes after giving birth that have to do with food tolerances, like lactose intolerance.
You should be aware that it is a possibility for some people to become lactose intolerant following a pregnancy. Not all women will experience this post-natal change. Further, some symptoms that look similar to lactose intolerance are actually due to progesterone fluctuations and post-pregnancy operations.
Keep reading as we dissect the ins and outs of pregnancy-related lactose intolerance and the likelihood of lactose intolerance after giving birth. We’ll also share some info about symptoms to look out for that might indicate lactose intolerance after pregnancy. Let’s get into it.
Table of Contents
- Is Post-Pregnancy Lactose Intolerance Real?
- What Causes Post-Pregnancy Lactose Intolerance?
- Other Explanations for Post-Pregnancy Digestion Issues
- Final Thoughts
- Frequently Asked Questions
Is Post-Pregnancy Lactose Intolerance Real?
It’s a very real phenomenon to experience symptoms of lactose intolerance in the weeks or months following the birth of a child.
For some individuals, these post-pregnancy symptoms are only temporary as their hormones shift back to normal levels. But for other individuals, lactose intolerance could develop following pregnancy and stay with them for life.
In fact, many women experience the following symptoms after giving birth, resulting in allergy tests, consultations with doctors, and new dietary regimens:
- Vomiting and extreme nausea after eating dairy
- Stomach cramps akin to labor pains
- Abnormal stool
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
Luckily, you can take comfort in the fact that lactose intolerance usually isn’t life-threatening and is quite manageable with simple dietary changes. Not only do lactose-free alternatives to dairy products exist; but you can also take over the counter lactase supplements to help you digest lactose better.
What Causes Post-Pregnancy Lactose Intolerance?
The primary cause of lactose intolerance in any individual is a lack of the lactase enzyme, which is responsible for helping your body to digest lactose. Different lactose intolerant individuals have varying levels of the enzyme produced by their bodies. This is why some lactose intolerant people can have dairy from time to time, while others avoid it entirely.
When it comes to post-pregnancy lactose intolerance, it’s possible that the individual already has a very mild form of lactose intolerance that has just been triggered by pregnancy-related changes.
For example, you might have always been able to digest dairy just fine, then suddenly can’t tolerate it after giving birth. Your immune system undergoes normal shifts during pregnancy, and as a result, your body may react slightly differently to certain food allergens.
So, that cheese or ice cream you were so used to eating before may now be intolerable to your digestive system after having given birth.
Other Explanations for Post-Pregnancy Digestion Issues
At times, the digestive symptoms of lactose intolerance can look a whole lot like the symptoms of other bodily issues.
For example, it’s possible that a difficult delivery required you to have your gallbladder removed. Women commonly experience issues with gallstones following a pregnancy, resulting in a need for a removal surgery to alleviate pain.
And some of the bodily changes that people notice after having their gallbladder removed include:
- Feeling nauseous due to bile fluid leakage
- Stomach pains due to bile fluid leakage
- Surgery-related intestinal injuries
- Diarrhea, stomach pain, and indigestion resulting from post-cholecystectomy syndrome
As you can see, a lot of these phenomena mimic the normal symptoms that present in lactose intolerant individuals when they consume foods/drinks with lactose.
The point is, you may be experiencing symptoms that lead you to believe you’ve become lactose intolerant after pregnancy, when in reality, you could be suffering similar-looking symptoms from a post-delivery operation or other experience you’ve recently had. This is why it’s good to speak with your doctor about symptoms to get a proper diagnosis when necessary.
You may be quick to jump to the conclusion that your upset stomach after eating cheese or drinking milk is a sudden allergy development since your pregnancy has ended. But in many cases, you could be overlooking a coincidence that perfectly explains the symptoms you’re having when you eat dairy.
One such coincidence is the shift in hormone levels that follows child delivery. In particular, you’ll have fluctuations in progesterone. Just as this hormonal fluctuation can cause digestive symptoms during your menstrual cycle, it can also cause digestive issues after you give birth.
Or, you may just be experiencing what is known as postpartum flatulence, and if you’ve eaten dairy that day, you may confuse that gas with lactose intolerance gas.
If you’ve ever wondered if it’s possible to become lactose intolerant after pregnancy, this guide should clear things up for you. While it is possible to develop lactose intolerance later in life, such as after you give birth, it’s also likely that hormonal changes or operation-related GI symptoms are mimicking lactose intolerance symptoms.
To be sure about any diagnoses or treatment methods, always consult with your doctor about the symptoms that you are experiencing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you become gluten intolerant after having a baby?
It’s surprisingly common to develop a gluten intolerance after going through pregnancy. According to the Mayo Clinic, celiac disease can become active after pregnancy or emotional stress, which may accompany pregnancy. Note that gluten intolerance is largely caused by genetics, so it could also develop after having a baby, but only by genetic coincidence.
How do I know if I’m lactose intolerant?
Some of the most obvious signs of lactose intolerance include GI discomforts like loose stool, nausea, stomach cramps, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea. Occasionally, lactose intolerance can go so far as to cause vomiting. To be certain, a doctor can diagnose lactose intolerance by testing your blood glucose levels and breath hydrogen levels after you consume lactose.
Can you all of the sudden become lactose intolerant?
It is definitely possible to develop lactose intolerance later in life, and it’s common in adult individuals. It often develops due to intestinal diseases, certain medical treatments, and in tandem with celiac disease.