Celiac Disease and Pregnancy
Celiac disease (also called ‘sprue’) is an inflammatory condition of the small intestine caused by an abnormal reaction to gluten which is a protein found in many grains. The inflammation reaction harms the small bowel and therefore reduces the absorption of nutrients. Undiagnosed celiac disease can lead to a host of other problems including:
- Growth restriction (in children)
- Bone loss (due to malabsorption of calcium/vitamin D)
- Severe fatigue
What are some considerations for planning a pregnancy if I have celiac disease?
The only treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet. While this may seem daunting at first, most sufferers will say that the improvement in their overall well-being is so dramatic that it becomes easy to continue the gluten-free lifestyle. While going gluten free and from thence forth, women should take care to replenish lost nutrients (especially folate, iron, B12, and calcium/vitamin D) with a daily prenatal vitamin (consult with your provider on whether he/she recommends “prescription strength” vitamin or “above average” dosages of iron or folate).
Does celiac disease cause fertility or pregnancy complications?
Celiac disease can impact fertility for both men and women. It may also lead to a greater risk of miscarriage and other complications. Several studies have shown that celiac disease may inhibit fertility as well as contribute to slightly higher rates of both pregnancy complications and miscarriage. However, fertility rates can go back to average for your age after starting the gluten-free diet. Since nobody knows the exact role of celiac in fertility and pregnancy complications, the best approach to fertility and pregnancy complications is to work with your obstetrician or midwife while maintaining a gluten-free diet and healthy lifestyle.
How long after being diagnosed with celiac disease should I wait before trying to get pregnant?
Once properly diagnosed and on a gluten-free diet, most practitioners recommend waiting until nutritional deficiencies are corrected before trying to conceive which may take several months or even a year. Male celiac patients should certainly consider a semen analysis if fertility is a concern because of the risk for low or abnormal sperm production related to malnutrition.
Do I need to carry genetic markers for my children to possibly inherit celiac disease, or do they also need to be present in my partner?
Individuals who test positive for specific “HLA genes” seem to be genetically predisposed for celiac, but only about 4% develop the disease after being exposed to gluten. As such, additional genetic factors along with dietary and environmental exposures likely further contribute to the development of celiac disease. Regardless, the genetic markers that have been identified can be passed to children from either parent.
Once I get pregnant and maintain the pregnancy, what are the important factors relative to celiac disease?
Research suggests that the most important thing is to maintain a gluten-free diet. Pregnant women with undiagnosed or untreated celiac disease have a higher risk of anemia and pre-term labor, as well as higher rates of low birth-weight and stillborn infants.
Additional questions for your doctor:
- Should I get tested for nutritional deficiencies before attempting to get pregnant?
- In addition to gluten-free, what other dietary changes should I make before attempting to get pregnant?
This blog post was originally published by AutoimmuneMom.com and first published on Sep 1, 2012 .
Join our email list
Receive the latest blog articles, news, and more right to your inbox!
Related articles you might be interested in
Find more resources on autoimmunity
Learn more about autoimmunity, diagnosis tips, how to find a physician, and more.