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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Latent Celiac Disease Can Increase Reproductive Problems

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: New study demonstrates that latent celiac disease can increase reproductive problems.

    Celiac.com 01/17/2011 - Women with latent celiac disease, those who test positive for celiac antibodies but show normal small bowel biopsies, may develop more reproductive problems, according to a report by Indian published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.

    "Women having unexplained infertility, recurrent abortions, stillbirths or intrauterine growth retardation could have subclinical celiac disease, which can be detected by serological screening tests," Dr. Ashok Kumar told Reuters Health by email.

    Improved diagnostic tools, and greater access to screening have led to greater meant more latent or subclinical celiac disease, says Dr. Kumar, of Maulana Azad Medical College & Lok Nayak Hospital in New Delhi.

    Doctors know that women with full, biopsy-proven, untreated celiac disease have more reproductive problems if they don't follow a gluten-free diet.

    Until now, there have been "very few studies regarding the effect of latent celiac disease on reproductive performance; the association has never before been investigated in India," say the authors.

    To study the effect of latent celiac disease on reproductive performance, the researchers examined 893 women.

    They found that a total of 104 women had undergone idiopathic recurrent abortion, 104 had unexplained stillbirth, 230 had unexplained infertility, and 150 were pregnant, but showed idiopathic intrauterine growth restriction. The remaining 305 women, with normal obstetric histories, and served as control subjects.

    Based on IgA tTG antibody titers, latent celiac disease was 5.43 times more common in the group with recurrent spontaneous abortion than in the control group.

    Rates of latent celiac disease for the group with stillbirth were 4.61 times greater than the control group.

    Rates for the group with intrauterine growth restriction were 7.75 times greater than control subjects, while rates for those with unexplained infertility were 4.51 higher.

    The researchers also found that women with positive blood screens showed higher rates of  previous early births, low-weight births, and cesarean sections than did seronegative subjects.

    Not every study shows a clear reduction in fertility, the researchers admit, but a number do show a higher risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes for women with latent celiac disease.

    Spotting the celiac disease and treating it with a gluten free diet may reduce these associated risks.

    Moreover, the researchers note that "the classic presentation of diarrhea and malabsorption is now less common, and atypical and silent presentations are increasing."

    As a result of their findings, Dr. Kumar and his colleagues are recommending celiac disease blood screens for women with idiopathic cases of poor reproductive performance.

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    I am so glad this info is finally getting out. I determined I was likely celiac after googling some test results after trying to find out why I kept miscarrying and kept seeing "celiac disease" as something related to that test result. I miscarried 5 times before that. I never did get an official celiac diagnosis as I had already gone gluten-free so my antibodies were below the celiac cutoff and my biopsy showed tons of inflammation but no flattened villi but it was obvious to me when my body felt so much better after only a few days off of gluten. And a year after going gluten-free I got pregnant again and delivered a healthy baby girl 9 months later. I hope others with infertility get tested as part of their infertility screening. It was a miracle I figured it out myself - my doctors just told me to keep trying.

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    I went through 14 miscarriages until my last. When complaining to my sister about the usual constipation, she suggested that I go on the gluten-free diet, since our two brothers had celiac disease. I did, and I enjoyed my first pregnancy. However, I was given an endoscopy. The blood test showed slight tendency towards celiac disease, but the endoscopy showed nothing. So now I don't know what to do but stay on the gluten-free diet.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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