How to cope when you're coeliac & pregnant
Before I delve further, please rest assured many coeliacs have happy and healthy pregnancies with beautiful babies to adore at the end of their 9 months. I should know: I'm one of them.
That said, you may have a few things on your mind if you're coeliac and pregnant.
You may be wondering about taking additional supplements. You'll need to take the same as everyone else in the first 3 months, including folic acid and vitamin D, but Coeliac UK recommends taking slightly more folic acid in case you have damage to the gut. You can read more about it here. You may also need to take additional iron, calcium and vitamin B12 but talk to your midwife about whether this is necessary.
Studies have shown untreated coeliacs are more likely to miscarry, and for some it's a symptom that leads them to get their coeliac diagnosis.
So if ever you needed more reason to stick faithfully to your gluten-free diet, you have it. But you're probably doing everything you can. You're diligent about avoiding cross-contamination, you're trying to eat more healthily than ever, and you're hovering over anyone who prepares your food.
Complications at birth
Coeliac UK warns us of the perils of eating gluten and being pregnant.
The problems are three-fold:
Low birth weight.
Increased risk of a c-section.
Clearly none of these are desirable outcomes so if you begin to smell the faint aroma of a freshly baked croissant, cross to the other side of the road before it all becomes too much. (You are being strict about your gluten-free diet, aren't you? Just checking...)
Accidentally eating gluten
The real issue you're worried about may be accidentally eating gluten as a one-off and whether it'll affect the baby.
The good news here is it's highly unlikely. I experienced it myself after being glutened in a restaurant that gave me the wrong pasta. If you're wondering, I checked if it was suitable a gazillion times with them before I ate any. It was only when the chef ran out after I'd started eating that I realised the error. (That and the fact I'd just said to my husband it was the best pasta I'd ever had.)
I rushed to seek medical advice and was told the gluten would only affect me, not the baby, and that since my blood pressure had shot up because of the incident, I should try and take it quietly. (Hmmm, easy for them to say - they weren't the ones who'd spend the night throwing up five times in the loo.) By this time I was 6 months pregnant and there's a big difference in survival rates from 28 to 29 weeks onwards. I bore this in mind as I tried to calm down.
The NHS and Coeliac UK make it clear that healthy coeliac patients who follow a gluten-free diet aren't at any greater risk of abnormalities than non-coeliacs, which is reassuring.
Things to expect when you're pregnant
There's a big difference between normal pregnancy symptoms and things you need to worry about. Obviously, you should check with your midwife if anything is ailing you. That said, when I was pregnant I experienced symptoms you might confuse with coeliac disease, including extreme fatigue (up until about 16 weeks) and abdominal pains (slightly different from those if I'd eaten gluten, but nonetheless rather unpleasant). But these are experiences many women go through, particularly with tiredness, so my advice would be to go to bed super early every night and stock up on sleep.
Being an older parent
Not once was I told that being coeliac would affect my chances of becoming a mum because I was older. I was 39 when I had my son and 40 when I had my daughter, but anyone would think it'd been a decade's difference, not just a year. I was given double the number of scans and quite a bit of pressure to be induced on my due date, which I refused. After speaking to the specialist at length, she agreed it was safe for me to wait. I gave birth naturally 4 days later.
There are many things I credit with my having two healthy babies and being lucky enough to avoid a c-section both times. Thankfully, not eating gluten was rarely an issue, and my being coeliac never once affected the baby I was carrying.
If you're coeliac and pregnant, my advice would be to talk to your midwife, see a dietitian if you think you need to, and embrace hypnobirthing if you can (it helped keep my calm and happy, especially during my first labour which was pretty intense).
For more advice on being coeliac in hospital, please click here.