Women with Celiac Disease Shouldn't Fret Over Fertility

Women with celiac disease do not report more fertility problems than the general population.

Women with celiac disease do not report more fertility problems than the general population, according to the authors of a new study published in Gastroenterology.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 2 million women of childbearing age in the United Kingdom to compare the rates of clinically reported fertility problems among those with or without celiac disease. In doing so, they determined that the presence of the gastrointestinal disorder did not lead to a greater likelihood of fertility problems.

However, the rates of infertility were 41% higher among women diagnosed with celiac disease who were aged 25 to 29 years, compared with peers without it. Putting that data into perspective, 1 study authors noted that if the researchers had observed women in that age bracket for 1 year, then 1 in every 100 women without celiac disease would report a fertility problem, whereas 1.5 in every 100 women with the disorder would report a fertility problem. Furthermore, the study author hypothesized that this difference might be related to heightened concerns about whether celiac disease is related to fertility issues, which might lead to earlier consultation if a woman is having trouble conceiving.

The researchers posited that undiagnosed celiac disease could be an underlying cause of unexplained infertility, but their analysis indicated most women with either undiagnosed or diagnosed celiac disease do not have a substantially greater likelihood of clinically recorded fertility problems than the general population.

Downplaying previous data that have suggested a link between celiac disease and infertility, the authors noted that those studies examined a small amount of women who were seeing an infertility specialist and were then screened for celiac disease.

"Despite inconsistent findings from small studies, concern has been raised that celiac disease may cause infertility," said lead study author Nafeesa N. Dhalwani, PhD, in a press release. "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."