Women with celiac disease have more trouble getting pregnant and carrying the baby to term than women without the disease, according to research by gastroenterologists at Jefferson.
The study suggests that many physicians including some fertility experts, ob-gyns and, even, gastroenterologists are unaware of the link between celiac disease and fertility problems.
Jefferson gastroenterologist Stephanie Moleski, MD, presented the findings at an American College of Gastroenterology meeting in Las Vegas this past week.
She noted, “we have concluded that there is a relationship between celiac disease, fertility and pregnancy outcomes suggesting a need for increased awareness of this association among patients and physicians.”
For some women, unexplained infertility can be a sign of undiagnosed celiac disease, says Anthony DiMarino, Jr., MD, director of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Jefferson and director of the Jefferson Celiac Center. That was the case for Alice Bast who learned she had celiac disease after years of frustration with fertility problems and the delivery of her second child by an emergency c-section months early.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know the exact cause of fertility issues in women with celiac disease,” says Dr. DiMarino. “A possible contributing factor to miscarriages may be celiac antibodies circulating from the mother and damaging the placenta. Nutritional factors which may affect the mother, may also be a contributing factor.”
But in many cases, patients who are diagnosed with celiac disease and who maintain a gluten-free diet are able to conceive and have a baby.
If you or someone you care about has celiac disease our Health eCooking pages has lots of gluten-free recipes for you to check out.