Pregnancy Articles

Untreated Celiac Disease Puts Baby at Risk

Pregnancy News Flash

Celiac disease is an intestinal disorder in which the body reacts to a protein called gluten, which is found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust, and other foods that contain wheat, barley, rye, and even oats. When a person with celiac disease eats foods that contain gluten, an immune reaction occurs in the small intestine, resulting in damage to the surface of the intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients from food. This can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive the brain, nervous system, bones, liver, and other organs of vital nutrients. There are no typical signs and symptoms of celiac disease. However most people with the disease have general complaints such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bloating. Celiac disease is also called celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy.

Swedish researchers recently analyzed data from the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare. They obtained information on almost 2.8 million births from women without celiac disease and from 2,078 births to women diagnosed with celiac disease. Only 1,149 of these women were diagnosed with celiac disease before giving birth.

The women with undiagnosed celiac disease were 62% more likely to deliver infants with poor growth while in the womb, and at least twice as likely to have a baby with low birth weight (compared to the women without celiac disease). The researchers believe that the inflammation in the small intestine causes poor absorption of nutrients, and therefore poor weight gain in the infant. The researchers feel that if a woman were diagnosed and treated for celiac disease 1-2 years before conception, her risk of having a pre-term birth or low birth weight baby would be similar to a woman without celiac disease. Following a gluten-free diet 1-2 years prior to conception would allow the inflammation in the small intestine to diminish and absorption of nutrients to improve.

BabyFit Tip: Prior to conception, discuss any abdominal symptoms, discomforts, or fatigue with your doctor. A referral to a gastroenterologist may be necessary. If diagnosed with celiac disease, see a dietitian for nutritional care and management of the disease through diet. This will help to improve your nutritional status and intestinal health before conception.

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About The Author

Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. She teaches prenatal classes and counsels individuals, helping women eat right and stay fit before, during and after their pregnancies.
Becky Hand

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