Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease whose most important symptom is a permanent intolerance to gluten – a protein found in cereals (wheat, barley, rye). According to experts, it has a genetic basis and may affect approximately 2-3% of the population. Scientists from Slovenia believe that the disorder may be associated with a higher risk of fertility disorders, recurrent miscarriages, and complications during pregnancy and postpartum.
The research team conducted a retrospective study on 144 women and 61 men diagnosed with the disease. Their aim was to detect a possible association between celiac disease and menstrual cycle, fertility and gynecological-obstetric complications. A specially designed tool in the form of a questionnaire was used for the analysis. The researchers related the data to information collected in a control group of more than 100 healthy men and women.
The results may be important from the perspective of couples trying to get pregnant. A higher percentage of women with celiac disease (27.1%) had difficulty conceiving their first child compared to healthy controls (12.7%). In addition, women diagnosed with the disease experienced more complications during pregnancy, such as miscarriages and intrauterine growth retardation.
Interestingly, in the study, the prevalence of reproductive problems was not the same in men and women with celiac disease. A total of 2 men with celiac disease (3.3%) reported problems with partner conception or semen parameters, but the difference between the male cases and the control group was not statistically significant. Thus, the disease appears to have a greater impact on female than male fertility.
The only effective treatment for celiac disease is strict adherence to a diet and complete elimination of gluten. There is a good chance that a consistent change in lifestyle and diet can have a beneficial effect on the possible effects of the disease.
Researchers from Slovenia recommend that women with unexplained infertility, pregnancy loss, or pregnancy complications, including fetal distress, should also be screened for celiac disease. This will ensure timely and effective action and prevention of complications.