Fertility problems among women with celiac disease is not more frequent than women in the general population, suggests a new study in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association.
"Despite inconsistent findings from small studies, concern has been raised that celiac disease may cause infertility," said lead study author Nafeesa N. Dhalwani, PhD, from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. "Celiac patients should rest assured; our findings indicate that women with celiac disease do not report fertility problems more often than women without celiac disease."
Researchers conducted a large population-based cohort study, analyzing more than 2 million women of childbearing age in the United Kingdom, to compare the rates of new clinically recorded fertility problems in groups of women with and without celiac disease. The findings show women with celiac disease do not have a greater likelihood of fertility problems, either before or after diagnosis of celiac disease.
While undiagnosed celiac disease is likely to be an underlying cause of unexplained infertility for some women, these findings indicate that most women with celiac disease, either undiagnosed or diagnosed, do not have a substantially greater likelihood of clinically recorded fertility problems than women without celiac. Therefore, screening when women initially present with fertility problems may not identify a significant number of women with celiac disease, beyond the general population prevalence.
Previous studies associating infertility with celiac disease included small numbers of women attending infertility specialist services and subsequently screened for celiac disease, so they may not be representative of the general population. This is the largest study to assess the association between celiac disease and fertility problems to date with data on more than 2 million women over a period of 20 years.
Celiac disease affects about 1 percent of the population in North America and Western Europe, with women constituting about 60 to 70 percent of the clinically diagnosed population. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition which can result in intestinal malabsorption and prevents the body from collecting nutrients as food passes through the small intestine. The primary treatment for celiac disease is the strict following of a gluten-free diet. Learn more about celiac disease in the AGA patient brochure.