Is undiagnosed celiac preventing you from becoming a mother?
Celiac disease is a disease still full of questions and mysterious associations. Several clinical studies have pointed out that, when undiagnosed and untreated, celiac disease can cause fertility problems, especially among women, without there being a consensus on the reasons.
Before explaining the hypotheses that are being considered, it is important to clarify that the relationship between coeliac disease and infertility exists, but is far from spectacular. Research has only been able to detect that gluten intolerance was 2.5 to 3.5% more frequent among women with fertility problems of unknown origin than among those with normal reproductive health.
Undiagnosed coeliac disease seems to have a significant impact especially on pregnancy. Some studies have estimated that the risk of miscarriage is up to 9 times higher among women with gluten intolerance who continue to consume gluten, and that the risk of premature delivery or other causes of low birth weight was six times higher among these women.
Why does it happen?
Most plausibly, these problems are caused by nutritional deficiencies. The damage to the intestinal villi suffered by people with coeliac disease who eat foods containing gluten makes it difficult for them to absorb nutrients such as folic acid (vitamin B), iron, zinc and selenium, all of which are essential for proper reproductive health in general and the formation of the placenta in particular.
However, some studies have not found a clear relationship between nutritional problems and the risk of miscarriage, and attribute the problems to the antibodies secreted by the body to “defend” against gluten, which can have a negative impact in the early stages of pregnancy, or to the small hormonal imbalances experienced.
Women with celiac disease may see their childbearing age reduced because they tend to experience their first menstruation later on and bring forward menopause. This may be related to altered hormone levels or weight-related fertility problems: the body mass index of women with undiagnosed coeliac condition is often significantly lower than normal.
In addition, other circumstances associated with coeliac disease (reduced sexual desire or postponing the decision to become a mother until the origin of the symptoms is clear) may play a role in some cases.
Also a problem for men
Males with undiagnosed celiac disease also tend to have reproductive problems, although they are less common than among females. In addition to impotence and loss of libido, the quality of their sperm seems to suffer: above all, their mobility, due to the same nutritional problems we mentioned when we were talking about female infertility.
What to do?
It is highly recommended that you tell your doctor about the possibility of having a coeliac test if there is no known cause for your fertility problems, you have amenorrhea (interrupted periods) or have suffered several miscarriages over the years for no apparent reason. In any of these cases, there is a good chance that gluten intolerance is behind the disorder.
If the tests are positive and you are diagnosed with coeliac condition, this may be the start of great news. Treatment based on a gluten-free diet can reverse your fertility problems (on the internet you will find plenty of testimonials from women who gave birth without problems after long years of sterility that nobody could explain) and you will be able to conceive without problems. The bread you bring under your arm, however, will be gluten-free.