Celiac disease and pregnancy, what are the risks? I Reproclinic
Celiaquía y embarazo, ¿es posible?

Celiac disease and pregnancy, what are the risks?

By Reproclinic Editorial Committee

Celiac disease is an underdiagnosed illness of multifactorial origin. It is estimated that between 80% and 85% of celiacs are undiagnosed. But, how does this pathology affect fertility?What if a celiac woman becomes pregnant? Does this ilnness affect the fetus? 


Studies carried out in this regard conclude that women with underdiagnosed celiac disease have a shorter fertile life, greater risk of infertility and can usually breastfeed for less time.


An increased risk of complications during pregnancy have also been observed, such as intrauterine growth restriction and repeated abortions.


However, once the disease is diagnosed and treated all these risks are comparable to those of a woman without this illness.


These results suggest that undiagnosed celiac disease can affect female fertility, and the attention should focus on early detection of this syndrome in high-risk groups, in order to reduce adverse pregnancy outcomes.


What are the symptoms of celiac disease?


Adults are less likely to have digestive symptoms, and only one third experience diarrhea. Adults are more likely to have:


  1. Anemia due to unexplained iron deficiency
  2. Fatigue
  3. Bone or joint pain
  4. Arthritis
  5. Osteoporosis or osteopenia (bone loss)
  6. Liver and biliary tract disorders (transaminitis, fatty liver, primary sclerosing cholangitis, etc.)
  7. Depression or anxiety
  8. Neuropathy peripheral (tingling, numbness or pain in the hands and feet)
  9. Convulsions or migraines
  10. Oligo amenorrhea (irregular menstrual cycle)
  11. Infertility or recurrent miscarriage
  12. Aphthous stomatitis
  13. Dermatitis herpetiformis (itchy rash)


What steps should be taken in these cases?


If you have any of these symptoms or you have the suspicions that you may suffer from this disorder, before pregnancy it’s important to make sure if you are really gluten intolerant or celiac. So that you can follow an optimal gluten-free diet that guarantees you and your baby welfare  during pregnancy. Our advice is to go to a specialist to perform the appropriate diagnostic tests and treatment. Following the medical recommendations and a gluten-free diet, the risks of pregnancy are comparable to those of a woman without this illness.


Is it inherited?


It is known that it has a hereditary component, but the inheritance pattern is unknown. People with first-degree relatives with celiac disease have between a 4 to 15% chances of developing this illness. Taking into account that more and more people are diagnosed with this pathology, the food industry already offers a wide range of products suitable for people with this disease, which facilitates the follow-up of an adequate diet.


Celiac disease in figures


Experts estimate that 1% of the world’s population is celiac. The percentage may seem small but in fact it is a figure that has increased fivefold in the last 25 years, especially affecting children:

  • 4% of diabetics are celiac.
  • For every two women who suffer from celiac disease there is a man who suffers from it.
  • In Spain, 20,000 people with celiac disease are diagnosed every year.


Can it affect fertility?


As we have seen, this pathology diagnosed and treated with proper diet supervised by professionals does not adversely affect pregnancy.


However, nutrient absorption problems generated by untreated celiac disease can cause anemia, weight loss, irregular menstrual cycles, and even preterm ovarian failure in some cases.

For all this, if you suspect that you could have celiac disease, it is important to consult with a specialist to make a correct diagnosis and treatment. At Reproclinic we work for your comfort through the different assisted reproduction programs we offer you. Contact us and we will solve all your doubts.


Published by Dr Maria Arqué

Medical Director at Reproclinic
Specialist in Obstetrics/Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine