Celiac disease is one of the most common autoimmune disorders in the world: a genetic immune response to gluten. Characterized by digestive issues, weight loss, anemia, joint pain, dental problems, bone disease, and reproductive problems. Yep, that’s right, reproductive problems.
On top of that, it is estimated that 1% of the population of the world has celiac disease, and 80% of these people are still undiagnosed. When it comes to reproductive health, it is important for women diagnosed with celiac disease to have a plan to manage their disease during pregnancy. But it also means that it is important for women who are experiencing troubling undiagnosed symptoms to investigate further with their doctor to determine if celiac disease is present.
Undiagnosed celiac disease is related to decreased fertility and a decreased period of breastfeeding, but if treated with a gluten-free diet, these problems seem to disappear! However, if you suspect some level of intolerance to gluten, it is recommended that you see your physician and be tested for celiac disease instead of deciding to cut gluten out of your diet on your own. It is important to know what is actually going on with your body so you can be properly monitored and treated!
What DO you need to know if you have celiac disease and are pregnant or anticipating a pregnancy? First and foremost, you should be following a gluten-free diet! This has been shown to reduce most of the reproductive risks associated with the disease. If you need help, there are a ton of resources out there now! It can be hard to avoid certain foods (hello pregnancy cravings!!) but organizations like the Canadian Celiac Association and the Celiac Disease Foundation have great resources such as recipes, restaurant lists, and learning how to properly read labels.
Celiac disease can cause a nutrient deficiency: specifically zinc, selenium, and folic acid which all play an important role in maintaining a healthy pregnancy. So, at the Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics in Canada, they recommend taking a daily multivitamin that contains 1mg/day of folic acid for 3 months prior to achieving pregnancy and your first trimester, then reducing to a multivitamin that contains 0.4mg/day for the rest of your pregnancy. This is an increase in the amount of folic acid compared to a Mama without celiac disease, and this is to decrease the risk of a neural tube defect in the baby.
There is still research being done on the effects of celiac disease in women in their reproductive years, so guidelines and recommendations may change in the future. For now, we do know that pregnant women with celiac disease should be treated as a high-risk pregnancy and monitored appropriately by a physician. If you have any questions, reach out to Mama Coach in your area across North America and we’ll be happy to support as we can and point you in the right direction!