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How Does Celiac Disease Affect Pregnancy? Is a Gluten-Free Diet Enough? 

I want to discuss a critical health topic that touches the lives of many expecting mothers and their unborn children: celiac disease and its impact on pregnancy. Understanding the nuances of this condition is vital for ensuring a healthy pregnancy and minimizing risks for both mother and baby. 

How Does Celiac Disease Affect Pregnancy

What is celiac disease? 

Celiac disease (also known as coeliac disease) is an autoimmune condition where ingesting gluten results in damage to the small intestine. Patients with celiac disease have an immune system that mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. Their immune system produces anti-transglutaminase (tTG) antibodies to fight off gluten—which it mistakes as a threat to the body. However, these antibodies also attack essential enzymes that exist naturally in the body, resulting in the symptoms of celiac disease. 

Trying to conceive a child, navigating pregnancy, and embracing motherhood are beautiful (and complex) milestones. When celiac disease is also part of your journey, it can add an extra layer of apprehension and ‌increased risk to an already emotional period. 

Rest assured, knowledge is power, so let’s dig into this topic. 

What is the impact of celiac disease on pregnancy? 

Understanding the relationship between celiac disease and pregnancy—and knowing how to navigate it—can equip you with the tools to have a healthy pregnancy journey. 

When it comes to pregnancy, managing celiac disease is crucial as it can pose serious complications if undiagnosed or untreated. 

If you know you have celiac and remove all gluten from your diet, your odds of having a healthy baby are very good. If there’s no gluten for your body to react to, there are no symptoms! 

However, an overlooked diagnosis can delay timely intervention and greatly increase your baby’s risks of having problems. 

Research has consistently demonstrated a higher occurrence of pregnancy complications in women with undiagnosed celiac disease. 

What is celiac disease’s impact on pregnancy outcomes?

Patients often ask: how does celiac disease affect pregnancy? The short answer is that pregnant patients with celiac disease who are not rigorously following a gluten-free diet may experience a greater risk of reproductive complications. These can include: 

  • Increased incidence of unexplained infertility 
  • Recurrent miscarriages 
  • Preterm labor 
  • Intrauterine growth restriction 
  • Increased rate of Cesarean sections 
  • Stillbirths 
  • Hypertension 
  • Severe anemia (iron deficiency) 
  • Vitamin malabsorption and deficiencies, including calcium, vitamin D, folic acid, folate, and magnesium 
  • And low birth weight babies 

Celiac Disease And Miscarriage Risk

Celiac disease and miscarriage risk

A study of women with untreated celiac disease found that they faced a significantly higher risk of miscarriage and recurrent miscarriages compared to the general population.

Gluten sensitivity can cause inflammation, which can impact the uterus and complicate the implantation and growth of the embryo.

Eating gluten can exacerbate these risks because it triggers an autoimmune reaction in people with celiac disease. In addition, tTG antibodies produced in people with celiac disease can damage the placenta or the uterine lining. Both are essential to healthy, full-term pregnancy, so damage to either can lead to miscarriage.

Strictly sticking to gluten-free foods prevents the formation of these tTG antibodies and removes the risk to your pregnancy.

Can I develop celiac disease postpartum?

Some women might discover their celiac disease only post-pregnancy, as immune changes during this period may unmask previously subclinical disease. You may experience symptoms such as: 

  • Ongoing fatigue 
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Difficulty breastfeeding or low milk supply 
  • Joint pain 
  • Continuous abdominal discomfort post-delivery 

If you’re experiencing any symptoms or have concerns about celiac disease, don’t hesitate to reach out! 

Schedule an Appointment with Dr. Rad

Call (844) 473-6100 or click here to schedule online

Celiac disease doesn’t have to complicate your pregnancy

If you suspect you may have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it can be diagnosed relatively easily as part of your pre-conception counseling.  

Knowledge is power, and understanding how celiac disease can impact you and your developing fetus allows you to make the lifestyle changes necessary to ensure a healthy pregnancy. 

Working with a high-risk pregnancy specialist can also provide added confidence in your health and your pregnancy journey. While a gluten-free diet can mitigate the symptoms and complications of celiac disease, previous damage caused by celiac disease could still complicate your pregnancy. A high-risk pregnancy specialist (or Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist) can help mitigate your risk or navigate any complications that may arise. 

This journey may seem intimidating, but you’re not alone. Vigilance, awareness, and management are key. A diagnosis of celiac disease doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a healthy pregnancy. We’re here to support, inform, and accompany you every step of the way. 

When celiac disease is also part of your journey, it can add an extra layer of apprehension and ‌increased risk to an already emotional period. 

Make Dr. Steve Rad your high-risk OB/GYN 

Pregnant women with high-risk pregnancies worldwide are finding their way to OB/GYN Dr. Steve Rad’s Los Angeles offices. Dr. Rad is recognized as one of the world’s premier healthcare providers for high-risk pregnancies. 

Dr. Rad has been named a top Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist in Los Angeles by Los Angeles Magazine for the last six years. 

A maternal-fetal medicine specialist (perinatologist) receives a traditional obstetrics and gynecology education but with an additional three years of training to treat medical complications and promote a healthy pregnancy. 

Double-board certified Dr. Rad uses innovative 3D and 4D High-Definition ultrasound technology available only in a few places worldwide. Dr. Rad and his pregnancy care team have expertise in performing and interpreting Early Fetal Scans and Echocardiograms that facilitate the diagnosis of fetal abnormalities or birth defects as early as the first trimester (11 to 16 weeks of gestation). 

Dr. Rad has undergone extensive training in fetal echocardiography, sonography, and interpretation of early fetal scans under the auspices of the world’s leading specialists in the United Kingdom, Austria, and the United States. 

Call (844) 473-6100 or schedule your consultation online. We are currently accepting new patients. 

Call (844) 473-6100 or click here to schedule online

Sources 

Nørgård B, Fonager K, Sørensen HT, Olsen J. Birth Outcomes of Women With Celiac Disease: A Nationwide Historical Cohort Study. Am J Gastroenterol. 1999;94(9):2435-2440. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.1999.01358.x 

Butler MM, Kenny LC, Mccarthy FP. Coeliac disease and pregnancy outcomes. Obstet Med. 2011;4(3):95-8. doi:10.1258/om.2011.110007 

Domżał-magrowska D, Kowalski MK, Szcześniak P, Bulska M, Orszulak-michalak D, Małecka-panas E. The prevalence of celiac disease in patients with irritable bowel syndrome and its subtypes. Prz Gastroenterol. 2016;11(4):276-281. doi:10.5114/pg.2016.57941