It’s certainly common to worry during pregnancy. Things like what vitamins to take, what to eat, how much to eat and what to pay attention to when getting blood work done are just some of the common worries that women have. These questions carry even more weight for those of us who have celiac or gluten-intolerance.
A few months ago, I shared my personal journey regarding celiac, fertility, and successfully getting pregnant once starting a gluten-free diet. Because I was diagnosed with celiac just a couple of months before I became pregnant, I had lots of questions.
Were there extra steps I needed to be taking to keep me and my growing baby healthy? Were there possible complications that I should be wary of? What are some things I can do to make all of this easier? This guide will answer these questions for you as well as provide a few important tips that I picked up along the way!
Do I Need to Take Extra Precautions?
The most important thing you can do for yours and your baby’s health during pregnancy is to maintain a gluten-free diet. One of the first steps you should take is to tell your doctor, midwife, doula and any other professionals helping you during your pregnancy that you have celiac or gluten-intolerance and what this means about your diet and pregnancy.
During pregnancy it is especially important to make sure you are getting sufficient vitamins and minerals, especially folic acid and iron. Because sufficient absorption of these nutrients can be compromised by celiac disease, women need to take extra precautions to make sure they are getting the vitamins and nutrients that they need.
Depending upon your diet and blood work assessment, you may need to take additional supplements of folic acid, vitamin B12, calcium and iron. Folic acid is important both before and during pregnancy. Ask your practitioner if you should be taking a larger dose than the recommended daily intake of 400 micrograms. Fruits, veggies, and gluten-free grains such as quinoa, amaranth and brown rice are all excellent sources of the fiber, vitamins and nutrients that your body needs.
How Can Gluten Complicate my Pregnancy?
Untreated celiac disease during pregnancy can result in low birth weight babies and pre-term labor. Studies have also suggested that women with untreated celiac disease run a higher risk of miscarriage and iron deficiency anemia. If you have celiac disease and follow a gluten-free diet, it should not affect your ability to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. While it is always important to eat a strict gluten-free diet if you have celiac or gluten-sensitivity, it is crucial during all stages of pregnancy. This means following a strict gluten-free diet before, during and after pregnancy.
4 Tips from a Mom with Celiac
1. Even if you aren’t normally a snacker, you will probably want to snack when you are pregnant. The nausea of the first trimester can sometimes be soothed by having things like gluten-free crackers, rice cakes or pretzels nearby at all times, so stock up! Also have some gluten-free snacks on hand for in-between meal and late night munchies. Don’t worry about buying too much, as snacks are a breastfeeding mama’s best friend!
2. I know, I know. Home cooked meals are the most healthy and nutritious way to care for you and your growing babe. But who are we kidding? Sometimes (and by sometimes I mean starting around 8 months pregnant), it’s hard to muster up the energy to cook. If you aren’t familiar with gluten-free takeout in your area, research this and have a few menus on hand.
3. Depending on where you decide to give birth, you may be allowed to eat during labor (something I highly recommend). It may be difficult to find gluten-free options, so make sure you stock up and bring food with you. I recommend gluten-free granola bars, gluten-free crackers and peanut butter and mixed nuts. If you have access to a freezer, popsicles are great as well! It is also important to let the nursing and kitchen staff in the new mommy ward know that you eat a gluten-free diet and to have a contingency plan if they aren’t able to accommodate.
4. During pregnancy you will undoubtedly take new supplements, specifically prenatal vitamins, folic acid and iron. Consult your practitioner or see a dietician about adding others due to your gluten-free diet, like B vitamins and magnesium. Always make sure that any vitamins and supplements are gluten-free!!
If you think that celiac disease may be to blame for difficulties getting pregnant or for complications you’ve had during pregnancy, especially if you have gastrointestinal issues or other classic celiac symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting a celiac blood test done. Experts recommend waiting 6-12 months after a celiac diagnosis before getting pregnant, in addition to getting bloodwork done to determine if your nutrient levels are at healthy levels.