Celiac and Infertility: Is there a connection? My personal story…

In 2010, my husband and I decided we would start trying to have a baby. After only 2 months of trying, I found out I was pregnant a couple of weeks before Christmas. I remember missing my period by 1 day and taking a pregnancy test right before leaving for a trip to Ikea, a 2 hour drive to meet my in-laws to do some holiday shopping. After taking the test and seeing it was positive, I ran downstairs to tell Aaron and he was thrilled. The entire way to Ikea, I couldn’t wait to tell his parents. I knew they were going to be excited to be grandparents.

I went back and forth on if I was going to tell people but I decided to blab to everyone. I’m the worst secret keeper in the universe. People asked if I was nervous about sharing the news so soon after getting pregnant due to the risk of a miscarriage. “No, I’m healthy so I’m sure it will be fine” was my answer to comments like this. Boy was I wrong.

January 8th was our first sonogram appointment and I was 10-11 weeks pregnant. Aaron was late getting to the appointment and I got so mad at him in the lobby waiting for him! We went in the room and after a few minutes the technician broke the horrible news, “I’m not finding a heart beat.” All I remember from that moment forward was Aaron holding my hand and tears streaming down my cheeks. How could this be? How could this be happening? I’m healthy and fit – why was this happening to me?

For 7 years I worked in child welfare, watching mothers use drugs and neglecting their bodies only to have babies repeatedly with seemingly no complications. It just wasn’t fair I kept saying to myself, I take care of my body. I’m healthy, I’m fit and I can’t even have a baby? It just didn’t make sense to me. Something had to be wrong.

The doctor thought I would naturally miscarry on my own from the stress of finding out the news so she let me go home and call in a few days to update her. I went from buying baby things to a miscarriage in the blink of an eye.

Nothing was easy of course… I didn’t naturally miscarry on my own and had to spend a weekend taking pills to induce labor. They didn’t work and after 2 weeks I ended up having a D&C done to remove the gestational sack.

After 6 months with ovulation problems, cysts and cramping, the doctor finally put me back on birth control to regulate my system in the fall of 2011. Little did I know, this was going to open the door my celiac disease diagnosis.

Dr. Aukerman explained women with undiagnosed celiac disease struggle with pregnancies because their bodies are so  malnourished and depleted of vitamins and minerals, they can’t grow a fetus. If your body is exhausted from constantly fighting itself, I’m not sure how it is even feasible. He did say that the majority of his patients once they are diagnosed go on to have healthy pregnancies if they wait until their levels are normal and the body has healed.
Of course I was relieved to find this out but frustrated that no one ever explained that to me in the past and no one ever found my celiac. Right now we aren’t actively trying to have a baby but we will in the future and it’s reassuring to know I’m dealing with the main health problem and can help my fertility when we do try again.

I tell this story to give other women hope and encouragement. If you aren’t happy with what your doctor is telling you or you aren’t sure – get a second opinion. Trust your gut, trust your instincts. I knew something was wrong but no one else caught it. I might not have understood or knew why I had a problem, but I just knew something wasn’t right.
I found great information on the Celiac Central website about infertility and celiac disease:

Celiac Disease and Infertility Link:
Over the last 10 years, several studies have examined the link between celiac disease and infertility and found that women suffering from unexplained infertility may have clinically silent celiac disease.

  • One study conducted by physicians at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia found that the rate of recurrent spontaneous abortion (RSAB) and infertility in celiac disease patients is at least four times higher than the general population. They suggested that patients who experience unexplained infertility or RSAB should be screened for celiac.
  • Another study from the Department of Medicine at Tampere University Hospital and Medical School at the University of Tampere Finland found that the rate of celiac disease among women reporting infertility was 4.1%. Although the exact reason for the increased risk remains unknown, the researchers suggested that female celiac patients who are not adhering to a gluten-free diet have a shortened reproductive period and early menopause. Males with celiac disease have shown gonadal dysfunction, which could also contribute to fertility complications.
  • The link between celiac disease and infertility is currently being evaluated by researchers at Molinette Hospital in Turin Italy. Early reports from their research suggest that the prevalence of celiac disease among women with unexplained infertility is 2.5% to 3.5% higher than the control population. They suggest that celiac disease represents a risk for abortion, low birth weight babies and short-breast feeding periods, all of which can be corrected with a gluten-free diet.

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5 responses

  1. I definitely believe there is a link between infertility and Celiac. I found out in July 2011 that I have premature ovarian failure…the following December they finally diagnosed me with Celiac disease. I had been sick for quite awhile before they caught it and the doctors say it is not reversible. I am post-menopausal at 36 and on hormone replacement therapy and a gluten free diet.

  2. There is hope! I was diagnosed with celiac in 2008, and told (incorrectly) by my OB at the time that I may experience trouble becoming pregnant…was she ever wrong! Both my boys (ages two and three months) were conceived on the first try(!!!) and other than morning sickness, I had no complications.

      • I was gluten-free for nearly two years before I became pregnant in late 2009. It was quite a surprise how easily it happened–guess my body healed quickly once I went GF. (Cautionary tale, if you’re planning on it taking a while to get pregnant! I was mentally prepared to wait for months, and it was the shock of a lifetime when I got a positive result after two weeks.)

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