Background and aim: While gynaecological and obstetric disorders have been reported among women with coeliac sprue, their true prevalence and relationship to the coeliac disease process has not been completely elucidated. Our aims were to determine: (1) the prevalence of gynaecological and obstetric problems in patients with coeliac disease and the influence of strict gluten restriction on their occurrence, (2) the effect of pregnancy on the clinical course of coeliac disease and (3) the clinical features of those patients with onset of coeliac disease during pregnancy and the puerperium.
Patients and methods: The gynaecological and obstetric history of 130 coeliac patients and 130 age-matched healthy female controls were compared in a case-control study.
Results: In comparison to the controls, untreated coeliac disease patients exhibited significantly later menarche, an earlier menopause, an increased prevalence of secondary amenorrhoea and a greater incidence of spontaneous abortions. Patients who had adhered, in the long term, to a gluten-free diet had gynaecological and obstetric history indistinguishable from controls. Clinical deterioration of coeliac disease was observed in untreated patients during 17% of their pregnancies. In 14% of those untreated patients who were pregnant symptoms related to coeliac disease were manifested for the first time during either pregnancy (n = 7) or the puerperium (n = 4). Nine of these patients had underestimated features suggestive of coeliac disease.
Conclusion: The early diagnosis and treatment of coeliac disease may avoid significant gynaecological and obstetric complications in affected women. Celiac sprue must always be borne in mind among patients who develop diarrhoea and weight loss during pregnancy and/or the puerperium.