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A Gluten Free Pregnancy

By: Leigh Sexton - Updated: 5 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Gluten-free Pregnancy Conception And

If you’re planning to become pregnant, and you have a gluten intolerance, both conceiving and carrying a baby will be more straightforward if you keep to your gluten-free diet.

Gluten Intolerance And Fertility

Some studies conducted in the past decade show that the rate of coeliac disease in women who are experiencing difficulty conceiving is around four to eight per cent. This is around twice the rate in the general female population, suggesting that gluten intolerance can impact fertility in a number of ways.

Moving to a gluten free diet can help such women, but undiagnosed gluten intolerance may be causing other long-term fertility problems which must also be addressed, such as delayed menarche (the onset of a regular menstrual cycle) and early menopause.

In addition to the full development of gluten intolerance, research has shown that women with fertility problems test positive for coeliac disease-related antibodies at a ten-fold higher rate than the normal population. It is not clear yet how many of these women go on to have full-blown coeliac disease, but it is suggested that women having problems conceiving should ask for a gluten test early in their treatment for fertility.

It is worth noting that there are some studies that have found that some men develop impaired fertility as a result of undiagnosed gluten intolerance, so a full investigation of both partners may provide insights into dietary issues affecting conception.

Coeliac Disease And Pregnancy

A pregnant, gluten-intolerant, woman may fear that her gluten-free diet could harm her baby or make it more prone to gluten intolerance but many research studies have shown that such women need to focus even more carefully on their gluten-free diets if they wish to ensure their own health and that of their baby. A balanced gluten-free diet gives any pregnant women all of the nutrients she needs to be healthy and provides her baby with all the elements for growth and development.

A study of sixty pregnancies of women diagnosed with coeliac disease showed that 21 per cent of those who did not keep to a gluten-free diet suffered miscarriage and 16 per cent of those babies who were carried to term were of low birth weight. In another research programme, which examined women with coeliac disease who had been pregnant more than once, it was found that a gluten-free diet, once gluten intolerance was diagnosed, meant that miscarriage rates reduced by nearly a third and allowed women to continue breastfeeding for a further two to three months.

In the UK, women receive free prescriptions for gluten-free foods once they become pregnant and these prescriptions are increased during the last trimester to allow for the added calories a woman needs at this time. Women may wish to change the nature of their prescription to include more calcium rich foods or more easily digestible ones and you can ask you GP for a referral to a dietician to help you revise your prescription during the period you are pregnant and breastfeeding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is folic acid gluten-free? - Yes, folic acid supplements should be gluten-free but always check the ingredients label. You can increase your consumption of naturally occurring folate (the natural form of folic acid) by eating more leafy green vegetables.

Should I breastfeed if I am gluten intolerant? - Some women fear they may pass gluten intolerance to their children, but in fact breast-feeding helps protect against coeliac disease in children and delays its onset in any child who is susceptible.

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