Views and experiences of infertile women regarding the role of gluten in their infertility
Author(s): Justine Bold, Dimitra Diamantopoulou
Prevalence rates for infertility have increased globally. Untreated coeliac disease (CD) and gluten sensitivity can affect fertility. Guidelines encourage testing of women with unexplained infertility for CD and case studies demonstrate pregnancies after introducing a gluten-free diet (GFD).
To understand the experiences of women diagnosed with infertility, investigating the potential role of gluten, including testing and implementation of a GFD.
Participants completed an online survey that included open and closed questions which were coded inductively and analysed using thematic and content analysis.
29 UK based women completed the survey. The majority identified as White, with one Asian/Asian British, one Mixed, and one Arab participant. Only four had not undergone fertility treatment. Twelve had unexplained infertility, while seven had no diagnosis. Five had primary infertility and five had a secondary infertility diagnosis. TA identified six themes: (1) Experience with gluten in infertility, (2) Experiences with testing for CD, (3) Health beliefs/concerns regarding gluten, (4) Other interventions to help with infertility, (5) Nutritional support for women with infertility, (6) Infertility experience. A GFD alleviated symptoms for those with both intestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms. Participants felt unprepared for CD testing and that healthcare personnel did not treat symptoms seriously.
Awareness of extraintestinal manifestations of CD, including unexplained infertility, should be increased amongst healthcare professionals. Women with unexplained infertility should be screened for CD, even without the presence of intestinal symptoms. Women with infertility choosing to implement a GFD need to be better supported.