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Pregnancy Problems

Celiac Disease During Pregnancy

Can't eat gluten? We've got the details on what your celiac disease means throughout pregnancy — and tips on how to keep yourself and baby healthy.

What is celiac disease during pregnancy?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, which means that your body thinks it’s doing good but is actually harming you. In celiac disease, eating gluten, a protein found in a lot of grains, triggers an immune response that causes the body to damage the small intestine.

What are the signs of celiac disease during pregnancy?

Symptoms include abdominal pain, swelling and bloating; diarrhea; weight loss; and fatigue. Sometimes people have no gastrointestinal symptoms. There may be less obvious symptoms, like irritabilityjoint pain and a skin rash.

Are there any tests for celiac disease during pregnancy?

Yes. Your doctor can run a blood test to look for anti-gluten antibodies. He may also do an upper endoscopy, a procedure that lets him look at the inside of your intestine (though if symptoms aren’t severe, he may wait until after delivery to perform the procedure).

How common is celiac disease during pregnancy?

Celiac disease affects approximately 1 percent of all Americans, but most people don’t know they have it.

How did I get celiac disease?

No one knows for sure, but you’re more likely to have celiac disease if someone else in your family has it, so researchers believe there’s a genetic link.

How will celiac disease affect my baby?

“The problem with celiac disease and pregnancy is that you have poor absorption of nutrients, because you have all of this constant diarrhea and an inflammatory reaction in your bowels,” says Michelle Collins, CNM, an assistant professor of nurse-midwifery at Vanderbilt University.” So moms with celiac disease have a greater risk of having a low-birth-weight baby. They also have a small increased risk of preterm labor.”

A few studies suggest undiagnosed or untreated celiac disease can cause miscarriage. But if you have celiac disease and follow your gluten-free diet, chances are good that you’ll have a healthy pregnancy and baby. (More tips on the next page.)

What’s the best way to treat celiac disease during pregnancy?

Follow a gluten-free diet! Fortunately, that’s easier than ever to do. Most grocery stores now carry plenty of gluten-free foods to choose from.

What can I do to prevent celiac disease during pregnancy?

You can’t prevent it, but you can manage it.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have celiac disease?

“I will say I feel a bajilliion times better off gluten, so it's definitely worth it [to give up gluten]… Gluten-free eating can be a pain sometimes, and you definitely lack the convenience factor, but in the end it will be worth it.”

“I was diagnosed with celiac disease in October 2009. I know there may not be any correlation, but research does [suggest] that celiac disease can cause infertility as well as multiple miscarriages.”

Are there any other resources for celiac disease?

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

Plus, more from The Bump:

Diarrhea During Pregnancy

Weight Loss During Pregnancy

How to avoid preterm labor?

By Jennifer L.W. Fink