Rewind to just over a year ago. My husband and I were on our honeymoon and I began experiencing very painful stomach pains. These pains were on my lower left abdomen and were so painful they were sometimes keeping me up all night.
I was quick (read: too quick) to rule out anything gastrointestinal. It wasn’t “that kind of pain.” It didn’t feel related to food and was pretty sporadic.
Fast forward three months and the plans that my husband and I had of getting pregnant soon after the wedding weren’t working out as we had hoped. I was sure that a visit to the doctor would confirm my fears: these pains in my lower left abdomen were related.
Only when prompted by my brother (“are you crazy? Celiac is genetic. I have it. You have stomach pains. Get tested.”) did I visit a gastroenterologist for the blood test. Might as well rule it out, I thought. Before going to do the blood test, I decided to do what we all do when we have medical questions: I entered my symptoms into Google. The results were shocking. Celiac and infertility are related? I had no idea.
Celiac and Infertility
Research shows that about 4% of women with unexplained infertility are suffering from untreated celiac disease, and that these women have fewer children, on average, than women without (1.9 compared to 2.5).
The reason behind this connection is still somewhat unclear. While research has illustrated a connection between infertility and celiac disease, not enough large-scale studies have been performed and the underlying mechanisms remain uncertain. There is a possibility that malnutrition resulting from malabsorption of nutrients, leads to the body suppressing hormones that trigger ovulation. Another explanation involves malabsorption of folic acid, yet another disruption of normal immune system functioning.
It’s not enough to rely on other symptoms to determine that celiac may be the issue – many of the women suffering infertility who ended up having celiac were not exhibiting any other symptoms. Many clinicians are now recommending routine testing for celiac disease in women experiencing unexplained infertility.
The good news is that once celiac is discovered and a strict gluten-free diet is followed, these issues of infertility can be overcome.
Fast forward once more, this time to present day. As I write this blog entry I am enjoying a bowl of gluten-free oatmeal while my 6 week old son, Lavi, naps on my lap.
Giliah Librach is a regular contributor to the CeliAct Blog. You can find Giliah on Google+.