Celiac disease and fertility

Celiac disease and fertility

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which gluten consumption causes damage to the small intestine. However, the effects of this disease can go beyond gastrointestinal complaints, particularly when it comes to fertility.

The consequences of celiac disease on fertility

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder caused by intolerance to gluten, has demonstrated effects on fertility, particularly in women. Studies suggest that women with celiac disease have a lower pregnancy rate and are at increased risk of complications such as  pregnancy loss. The mechanism behind this  is complex and could be linked to impaired nutrient uptake, an increased inflammatory response, and hormonal changes.

Whether celiac disease also affects the quality of sperm in men has not yet been conclusively clarified. Some studies suggest that men with celiac disease may have reduced sperm quality, while others have found no significant differences. More research is needed to better understand these relationships.

The importance of diagnosing an unfulfilled desire to have children

For women and men who are struggling with an unfulfilled desire to have children, it is important to consider celiac disease as a possible cause, even if there are no typical symptoms. Diagnosing celiac disease is particularly recommended for women with recurrent pregnancy losses or stillbirths.

A simple blood test for antibodies against tissue transglutaminase (tTG) can provide initial clues. If the result is positive, an endoscopic examination involving tissue sampling (biopsy) of the small intestine should be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Celiac Disease Treatment Options and Diet

The standard treatment for celiac disease is a lifelong gluten-free diet. This diet eliminates gluten, which is found in many grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye. There is evidence that a gluten-free diet not only alleviates the symptoms of the disease but can also improve fertility.

Couples facing celiac disease could potentially increase their chances of a successful pregnancy by following a gluten-free diet. However, following a strict gluten-free diet requires commitment and knowledge about gluten-free foods and potential hidden sources of gluten.

Conclusion: Early detection and targeted measures

In cases of unfulfilled desire to have children, where the cause is unclear, or if there are recurrent pregnancy losses and/or stillbirths, diagnosis for celiac disease is recommended, even if there are no typical symptoms. Timely diagnosis allows not only targeted treatment of the disease, but also the implementation of a gluten-free diet, which can have a positive effect on fertility.

Written by
PD Dr. Dr. Kilian Vomstein
PD Dr. Dr. Kilian Vomstein

Mein beruflicher Schwerpunkt ist der Umgang mit unerfülltem Kinderwunsch und wiederholten Fehlgeburten, in dem ich umfassende klinische und wissenschaftliche Erfahrungen gesammelt habe. Ich strebe danach, für jedes Paar individuelle Lösungen zu finden.