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Researchers analyzed data from more than 2 million women of childbearing age in the United Kingdom and found that, overall, women with celiac disease were no more likely to have fertility problems than those without the digestive disorder.
However, women diagnosed with celiac disease between the ages of 25 and 29 had 41 percent more fertility problems than those in the same age group without the disease, according to the study published in the journal Gastroenterology.
"It is important to recognize that this represented only a very small increase in the number of women consulting with fertility problems. If we followed women between ages 25-29 years over a one year period, presentations with fertility problems would occur in one of every 100 women without celiac disease, but in 1.5 of every 100 women with celiac disease," study author Dr. Nafeesa Dhalwani, of the University of Nottingham's division of epidemiology and public health, said in a university news release.
"The fact that this increase was not seen in women of the same age with undiagnosed celiac disease indicates that it is unlikely to represent a biological impact of the condition on fertility," she said. "It may instead be related to heightened concern that may prompt earlier consultation if women experience delays in conception. This does, however, warrant further assessment."
Despite inconsistent findings from small studies, concern has been raised that celiac disease may cause infertility, she explained. However, most evidence comes from infertility treatment clinics, which are unlikely to represent most women with celiac disease, she said.
"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," she concluded.
People with celiac disease , an autoimmune disease, can't eat gluten -- a protein found in wheat, rye and barley -- because it will damage their small intestine.
-- Robert Preidt
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