May is National Celiac Disease Month which brings awareness to the hardships and effects this disorder has on individuals. Not only does it put a hamper on where and what you can and cannot eat, but it can also affect the stages of pregnancy.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease (CD) is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. The body launches an attack on the small intestine, leading to damaged villi, the protrusions that line the small intestine. The villi help with nutrient digestion and when they are damaged, the body cannot properly absorb nutrients.
Celiac Disease is a genetic disorder, and can be difficult to diagnose, as it has over 200 symptoms that affect people differently. Some symptoms may include:
- Digestive issues
- Bone or joint pain
- Unexplained iron-deficiency
- Missed menstrual periods
It can also cause other long-term health problems.
How Does It Affect Pregnancy?
One of the long-term health problems Celiac Disease can lead to is trouble with pregnancy. When your body launches its attack on the small intestine because of CD, nutrients become harder to absorb. If you are not getting nutrients, your baby is not getting the proper vitamins and minerals either. CD can cause deficiencies in folic acid, zinc, and selenium, which are crucial to a healthy pregnancy. It is also thought that some antibodies related to CD could damage the placenta. Celiac Disease can put a woman at higher risk for infertility, repeat miscarriages, low birth weight, intrauterine growth restriction and stillbirth.
The main treatment for CD and its effects on pregnancy is a gluten-free diet. Sticking to a strict gluten-free diet will not only help improve your health, but support fertility and a healthy pregnancy. While this may seem daunting, there are many resources, like this list from the Celiac Disease Foundation, that can help you determine which foods to look for. A gluten-free diet could be low in calcium, magnesium, iron, fiber, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin D. Taking supplements for these nutrients even before and during pregnancy will be helpful to you and your baby. Talk to your physician about what supplements may be right for you.
If you think you may have Celiac Disease or have questions related to this blog, reach out to us or schedule an appointment!