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A Journal on Obstetrics and Gynecology

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Minerva Ginecologica 2000 May;52(5):189-96

language: Italian

Celiac disease. A risk factor for women in reproductive age

Stazi A. V., Mantovani A.


In the past coeliac disease, or intolerance to gluten, has been considered a rare disease in infancy, whose most important signs were chronic diarrhea with malabsorption and reduced growth. However, besides this classical form, there are a number of other clinical and subclinical forms which may appear even in the adult life and without any overt intestinal sign. The alterations may affect, e.g., the liver, thyroid, skin and the female and male reproductive system. The overall prevalence of the different forms of coeliac disease in Western Europe is at least 1:300. The aim of the present paper is to describe and evaluate the effects of coeliac disease on female reproduction. Such effects include delayed menarche, amenorrhea, infertility and early menopause. Epidemiological studies show that besides reduced fertility, affected women are at higher risk of reproductive problems such as pregnancy loss, low birthweight of offspring and reduced duration of breastfeeding. There are no adequate studies to evidentiate a possible increase of birth defects; nevertheless, coeliac disease induces malabsorption, with deficiencies of nutritional factors essential to prenatal development such as iron, folic acid and vitamin K. The mechanisms underlying the reproductive alterations are still awaiting clarification; however, an interaction among specific nutritional deficiencies, endocrine imbalances and immune disturbances is suspected. As for the other effects associated to the coeliac disease, the possible prevention or treatment of the reproductive effects is only the lifelong maintenance of a gluten-free diet.

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