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Celiac disease, fertility and pregnancy

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Is there a link between celiac disease, infertility and pregnancy complications?

Celiac disease is a relative common disorder of the gastrointestinal tract caused by an allergy to gluten, a protein commonly found in wheat and other grain products. Like many other diseases, it what we call an autoimmune disorder, a disease in which the body's immune system attacks the person's own normal cells. Treatment of this disease rarely requires any drugs and almost always is helped by changing one's diet to a gluten-free one. The disease is also known as celiac or nontropical sprue, or gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Women (and men) who suffer from celiac disease may have symptoms such as:

  • abdominal bloating and pain
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • weight loss
  • fatigue

Studies on Celiac disease have also reported higher rates of infertility, miscarriages and menstrual problems among women with the disease, and then once pregnant, higher rates of a number of pregnancy complications such as low birth weight babies. It has even been reported to affects male fertility.

So, does this mean the Celiac disease causes fertility and pregnancy problems? Not so fast. Many of these studies are really too weak and small to draw any real conclusions. Still other studies fail to show that Celiac disease causes any reproductive issues. At this time, issue is far from settled.

For those looking to find a reason for their otherwise unexplained infertility, this may not be for the answer. However, for those who are having trouble getting pregnant and have lots of gastrointestinal symptoms, it may not be a bad idea to ask your doctor about getting tested for Celiac disease.