Gastroenterology, Volume 129, Issue 2, Pages 454-463 (August 2005) 08/11/2005 - A large study by Swedish and American researchers has determined that untreated celiac disease is associated with an increased risk of adverse fetal outcome. In contrast to several small studies that have been done in the past that produced conflicting results, this study looked at 2,078 births to women who were diagnosed with celiac disease—1,149 were diagnosed prior to their child’s birth, while 929 were diagnosed after. The researches employed a national register-based cohort study (1964-2001) that was restricted to women between 15-44 years old who had a single live birth. The researchers measured intrauterine growth retardation, low birth weight, very low birth weight, preterm birth, very preterm birth and birth by caesarean section for each child in the study.

The results of the study indicate that undiagnosed celiac disease is associated with an increased risk of intrauterine growth retardation (OR = 1.62; 95% CI: 1.22-2.15), low birth weight (OR = 2.13; 95% CI: 1.66-2.75), very low birth weight (OR =2.45; 95% CI: 1.35-4.43), preterm birth (OR = 1.71; 95% CI: 1.35-2.17), and caesarean section (OR = 1.82; 95% CI: 1.27-2.60). In contrast, those diagnosed with celiac disease before their births were not at increased risk for these adverse fetal outcomes.

The researchers conclude that undiagnosed celiac disease increases the risk of unfavorable fetal outcomes—a risk that is reduced in those with diagnosed celiac disease, presumably because they have been treated with a gluten-free diet.

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