What is infertility?
Infertility is defined as the biological inability of a woman or man to contribute to conception. Many experts define infertility as not being able to get pregnant after at least one year of trying. Women who are able to get pregnant but then have repeat miscarriages are also said to be infertile. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, roughly 10.9% of women in the United States—up to 6.7 million—have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a baby to term.
Although it is commonly believed that infertility is heavily related to female factors, only about one-third of cases of infertility actually stem from the woman. About one-third of cases originate with the male partner and the remaining cases are a combination of unknown factors or a mix of male and female complications.
What is the relationship between celiac disease and infertility?
Over the last 10 years, several studies have looked at the link between celiac disease and infertility and found varying results. Some suggest that women suffering from unexplained infertility may have celiac disease while others do not support this finding.
- One study conducted by physicians at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia found that the rate of recurrent spontaneous abortion (RSAB) and infertility in celiac disease patients is at least four times higher than the general population. They suggested that patients who experience unexplained infertility or RSAB should be screened for celiac disease.
- Another study from the Department of Medicine at Tampere University Hospital and Medical School at the University of Tampere Finland found that the rate of celiac disease among women reporting infertility was 4.1%. Although the exact reason for the increased risk remains unknown, the researchers suggested that female celiac patients who are not adhering to a gluten-free diet have a shortened reproductive period and early menopause. Males with celiac disease have shown gonadal dysfuction, which could also contribute to fertility complications.
- A study from researchers at Molinette Hospital in Turin Italy also looked at the link between celiac disease and infertility. Reports from their research suggest that the prevalence of celiac disease among women with unexplained infertility is 2.5% to 3.5% higher than the control population. They suggest that celiac disease represents a risk for abortion, low birth weight babies and short-breast feeding periods, all of which may be corrected with a gluten-free diet.
- Researchers have also found results suggesting that there is no relationship between celiac disease and infertility. It is clear that more research is needed in this area before conclusions can be made about the relationship between celiac disease and infertility.
Where can I learn more?
Do you or a family member suffer from infertility? You may have celiac disease. Find out now. Take our Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist.