A gluten-free diet is the only way to treat celiac disease, and that doesn’t change when you’re pregnant. Uncontrolled celiac disease has been linked to miscarriages, preterm labor, low birth weight, and stillbirths. But if you take gluten out of the picture, these risks all but disappear.
Also, when you’re eating for two, you should make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals.
It’s best to make sure your celiac disease is under good control before you try to get pregnant. This isn’t always possible, but being prepared is the best way to deliver a healthy baby.
How Does Celiac Disease Affect Pregnancy?
There are two key ways:
- The disease makes it hard for your body to absorb enough vitamins and minerals. And, in turn, your baby won’t get enough either.
- Experts also think that some antibodies (immune system chemicals) related to celiac disease might damage the placenta and harm you in other ways.
One study found that 85% of the women with celiac disease who miscarried had done so before it had been diagnosed. Once it was under control with diet, they weren’t more likely to miscarry than women without the disease.
What Do I Eat?
Ideally, you’ll start to take supplements before you get pregnant. Gluten-free diets can be low in these nutrients:
- Folic acid
- Vitamin D
Also, if you have celiac disease, there’s a chance you could be short on zinc, selenium and folic acid, which are important during pregnancy. So you really have to make sure you get everything you need.
Below are the most important nutrients during pregnancy. They are in many foods that work for a gluten-free diet. And you can – and should – get them through supplements:
- Iron. Spinach, sweet potatoes, peas, broccoli, dark leafy greens, beef, and lamb are all great sources of iron. (Meats have 2 to 3 times more iron than fruits and vegetables do.) It’s a good idea to get iron with vitamin C because it helps your body absorb the iron.
- Folic acid. It protects your baby’s brain from developing defects. You can get folic acid through beans (lentils, pinto, black), leafy greens, peanuts, citrus fruits, and broccoli. Many wheat products in the U.S. are fortified with folic acid, but gluten-free products often aren’t. So supplements are key during pregnancy.
- Calcium, vitamin D, andmagnesium. You need these for your bones. Lactose intolerance and celiac disease often go hand-in-hand, so you might need to find nondairy sources of calcium, like calcium-fortified drinks, canned fish, and leafy greens.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, tuna, lake trout, and sardines are all great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Make sure the fish you choose is low in mercury. Or take supplements.
Will My Baby Have Celiac Disease?
It is a genetic disease, so there is a chance that you’ll pass it on to your children. For a time, researchers thought that breastfeeding could lower a baby’s chance of getting it. But now they’re not so sure.
Other studies had shown that a child’s chance of getting celiac disease might be affected by how and when they were first given gluten. But that’s been found to be untrue.
People get celiac disease at all stages of life, and researchers are not sure what triggers it. The best thing for your pregnancy and your baby is to continue with a gluten-free lifestyle and take care of yourself first.