A risk factor for female fertility and pregnancy: celiac disease

Gynecol Endocrinol. 2000 Dec;14(6):454-63. doi: 10.3109/09513590009167719.


Celiac disease is a genetically-based intolerance to gluten. In the past, celiac disease has been considered a rare disease of infancy characterized by chronic diarrhea and delayed growth. Besides the overt enteropathy, there are many other forms which appear later in life; target organs are not limited to the gut, but include liver, thyroid, skin and reproductive tract. It is now recognized that celiac disease is a relatively frequent disorder; the overall prevalence is at least 1:300 in Western Europe. Celiac disease may impair the reproductive life of affected women, eliciting delayed puberty, infertility, amenorrhea and precocious menopause. Clinical and epidemiological studies show that female patients with celiac disease are at higher risk of spontaneous abortions, low birth weight of the newborn and reduced duration of lactation. No adequate studies are available on the rate of birth defects in the progeny of affected women; however, celiac disease induces malabsorption and deficiency of factors essential for organogenesis, e.g. iron, folic acid and vitamin K. The overall evidence suggests that celiac disease patients can be a group particularly susceptible to reproductive toxicants; however, the pathogenesis of celiac disease-related reproductive disorders still awaits clarification. At present, like the other pathologies associated with celiac disease, the possible prevention or treatment of reproductive effects can only be achieved through a life-long maintenance of a gluten-free diet.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / etiology
  • Celiac Disease / complications*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / etiology
  • Female
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / etiology
  • Glutens
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / etiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology*
  • Vitamin B Deficiency / etiology
  • Vitamin K Deficiency / etiology
  • Zinc / deficiency


  • Glutens
  • Zinc