I have always felt lucky that I began a gluten-free diet two years before I became pregnant with my children. Although it wasn’t easy for me to get pregnant, by the time I did, my body had healed significantly from the effects of gluten that could have led to serious complications like miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth weight or even stillbirth.
Important nutritional deficiencies (of zinc, selenium, iron and folate) associated with undiagnosed celiac disease may be partially to blame for complications in pregnancy. I was severely anemic before my celiac diagnosis and shudder to think how the lack of iron would have affected my baby.
A new study published in the Annals of Gastroenterology confirms prior research on how celiac disease affects pregnancy by concluding that compared with women in the general population, women with undiagnosed celiac disease have significant increases in spontaneous abortions (miscarriage), preterm delivery and delayed menarche (beginning of menstruation), resulting in fewer successful pregnancies.
Here are the points made by the researchers of this study:
- Significantly fewer women with celiac disease who tried to become pregnant had successful delivery of one or more pregnancies, suggesting that women with celiac may have a significantly lower rate of fertility.
- A significantly higher number of spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) occurred in women with celiac compared to controls, with 85% of them occurring before beginning a gluten-free diet.
- Women with untreated celiac disease are at an increased risk of pregnancy complications.
- Women with celiac disease have a higher prevalence of preterm deliveries (premature babies).
- Undiagnosed celiac disease should be considered in patients with recurrent complications of pregnancy, and these women should be given blood tests to detect celiac disease.
- (This is my point I am adding: even if negative for celiac disease, consider getting tested for gluten sensitivity or go on a gluten-free diet — gluten sensitivity can cause a myriad of health problems.)
As I mentioned above, these findings are not necessarily new — the study mentions much prior research conducted in this area. Alice Bast, the founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) has been sharing this information for years. By the time she discovered she had celiac, she had suffered through the trauma of delivering a full-term stillbirth, multiple miscarriages and a baby born at only 3 pounds. You can read more about Alice’s story here and here.
I encourage you to read the full study I have summarized above: Increased rates of pregnancy complications in women with celiac disease and please pass it along to anyone you know who is having complications with fertility or pregnancy. Feel free to share your own stories here to help others.