Table of Contents
Celiac Disease has been found to be the cause of unexplained infertility in as many as four to eight percent of cases in women. But what can Celiac Disease mean for you when those two blue lines appear in the window and the doctor gives you the news you've been hoping for: "Congratulations. You're pregnant"?
There are potential risks associated with being a pregnant celiac, problems for both you and the foetus that it's impossible to ignore. However, with care, it is possible for a celiac woman to face the challenges presented by pregnancy, so that they can go on to have a healthy pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby.
Problems Celiac Women face in Pregnancy
Women with untreated or poorly-managed Celiac Disease are more likely to suffer spontaneous miscarriage (both early and late-term), to give birth to a pre-term baby, to give birth to a low birth-weight baby, and have an increased likelihood of requiring a caesarean section.
So where's the proof?
A study of twenty-five celiac patients with sixty pregnancies found that 21% of women not following a strict gluten-free diet suffered miscarriage. A further 16% of the patients give birth to a baby with a low birth-weigh.
A large Danish study of 211 babies born to 127 mothers with poorly-managed Celiac Disease found that the babies were born with a lower birth-weight than babies born to mothers without Celiac Disease. As an aside, babies born to mothers with well-managed Celiac Disease were born at a heartier, heavier weight than babies born to non-celiac mothers.
Another study compared pregnant women with Celiac Disease following a gluten-free diet to women who did not, and found that celiac women who did not follow a gluten-free diet experienced a miscarriage-rate of 17.6%, compared to a miscarriage-rate of 2.4% in women who follow the gluten-free diet.
Why is this?
Malabsorption (where your body cannot absorb nutrients) and malnutrition (where your body lacks the nutrients it needs) are thought to be a partial cause of these pregnancy problems. In celiacs, this occurs due to the villi (the finger-like growths that line the intestine) becoming clogs. One particular pregnancy-supporting nutrient that celiacs often lack is Folate.
How can I have a healthy celiac pregnancy?
The most important thing you can do is follow a strict gluten-free diet before, during, and after your pregnancy. Not following your gluten-free diet will lead to malabsorption and malnutrition, and may cause miscarriage. Added to which it could cause Folate-deficiency anaemia (causing tiredness, faintness, headaches, and muscle weakness); painful brittle bones (caused by vitamin D deficiency): and iron-deficiency anaemia (causing breathlessness and heart palpitations). These should be avoided at all times, but will place your body under particular strain while pregnant.
In addition to following a strict gluten-free diet, you should practice good nutrition. This may include taking supplements before and during your pregnancy. In our next section, we explore vital gestational supplements for pregnant celiacs.