Infertility can be caused by several things and medical professionals probably don’t think of Celiac Disease (CD) as first cause (though they might start to soon).  Some research is available to support that CD can increase the risk for reproductive failures, but an all-inclusive evaluation of the risk has not been done–nor have scientists figured out exactly why/how this occurs in the body. 

In September 2013, scientists from Italy re-examined data from 24 previous studies, specifically looking at the effect of CD on pregnancy outcomes as well as the incidence of undiagnosed CD in women with a history of fertility failures.  Results showed that women with a history of reproductive disorders (infertility, recurrent miscarriage or intrauterine growth restriction) had a 5-, 6-, or 8-fold respectively, increased risk of having CD compared to the general population.  However, there was no increased risk of recurrent miscarriage, unexplained stillbirth or pre-eclampsia found in celiac patients.

As for the cause of reproductive disorders in CD: Although nutrient deficiencies have been thought to play a role, this study provided stronger evidence for an immune system-related cause. Increased levels of “anti-TG antibodies” have been seen in general in people with untreated CD.  Scientists now have reason to believe these antibodies attack placental cells in women trying to achieve fertility, thereby interfering with normal plancental development and pregnancy.  However, more research is needed to outline the exact process. 

Fortunately, before and after studies did show that the risk for intrauterine growth restriction, low birth weight and preterm delivery was significantly reduced with adherence to a gluten-free diet.

Reference: Tersigni C, et al. Celiac disease and reproductive disorders: Meta-analysis of epidemiologic associations and potential pathogenic mechanisms.  Hum Reprod Update. 2014 Mar: 1-12. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmu007

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