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Pregnancy and Celiac Disease

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Updated February 27, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What is celiac disease?:

As many as 1 in 200 people have celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder where the intestine of a person with celiac disease is attacked by the body when gluten is ingested. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats (due more to cross contamination with other grains containing gluten).

How is celiac disease diagnosed?:

With over 256 potential symptoms, you'd think it would be easy to diagnose celiac disease. The truth is that despite it's prevalence, many people who have celiac disease are fairly symptom free or misdiagnosed.

You can be diagnosed with this at any point in your life from infancy to old age. The biggest problem being that there is not one specific test that can identify you as having celiac disease. There are blood tests to look for antibodies in your blood and there is also the biopsy of the small intestine to check for damage. This endoscopy is considered the gold standard for diagnosis. It is a genetic disease.

How is celiac disease treated?:

The only known treatment for celiac disease is to avoid gluten. A gluten-free diet is not as difficult as it may seem. In the last 10 years the number of gluten-free foods available has grown considerably. But you will need to make sure to read food labels and be very careful when eating out, always checking for hidden gluten.

Misdiagnosis is fairly easy given the lack of a specific test. Symptoms of celiac disease include watery stools, diarrhea and even weight loss. Be sure to talk to your doctor about screening for celiac if you are having troubles and do not yet have a known reason.

Does celiac disease affect my fertility?:

Women who have celiac disease may have a greater issue with infertility that is unspecified. Though being on a gluten free diet is helpful in achieving a pregnancy.

Does celiac disease affect my baby?:

If you know that you have celiac disease and are pregnant, you will want to maintain the gluten free diet to avoid complications of pregnancy.

Perhaps you have not been diagnosed with celiac disease but you have experienced unexplained miscarriages, celiac disease could be to blame. Talk to your doctor about the risks.

Does celiac disease affect my labor?:

Celiac disease will not effect your labor or delivery. Though if you have a cesarean section or require stitches after a vaginal birth, be sure to remind your practitioner that you have celiac disease. Some sutures contain gluten and can be irritating.

Will my baby have celiac disease?:

Since celiac disease is considered to be genetic, you should alert your baby's doctor of your status. Breast milk can protect your baby from celiac disease. See more below.

Can I breast feed with celiac disease?:

Yes! Breastfeeding with celiac disease is very important for the health of mother and baby. If you have celiac disease and your baby does not, simply maintain your gluten-free diet. If your baby is diagnosed with celiac disease, which is very uncommon in the first six months, then you should maintain the gluten-free diet while breastfeeding.

If you do not have celiac disease and your baby does, then you can still breast feed, simply avoid gluten in your diet as well. Then as your baby moves to solids, they will also need to follow a gluten free diet.

Source:

Celiac Disease: Myth or Fact. Guandalini, S; Melin-Rogovin, M. University of Chicago Celiac Disease Program. Accessed 1/9/10

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