Although I’m 24 and single, my mind does occasionally wander to a time when I have children (of the non-cat variety.) I think every girl thinks about baby names long before the time comes to choose one, just as she thinks of her future wedding day, where it will be, what the cake will be like, long before she meets her future husband. When I was diagnosed with Celiac, it wasn’t long before my musings of the future drifted in the direction of my new gluten-free life. What would my gluten-free wedding cake be like? And then, more seriously, what would being pregnant be like if I couldn’t give in to the often-glutenful cravings of the typical pregnant woman? Would my children be limited to a gluten-free diet, too?
The books I perused, Celiac Disease for Dummies and The First Year: Celiac Disease and Living Gluten-Free, offered brief paragraphs, mostly about how un-diagnosed Celiac can cause infertility and an increased risk of miscarriage. That was weird, I thought, since those reading these books would most likely already be diagnosed. The Celiac.com forums gave a little bit of true insight, but the comments seemed to conflict with each other. Eventually, I gave up the search, figuring I’d learn all I needed to know when the time came, years down the road.
Then, last year, a friend of a friend, Jennifer DeLuca, who happens to have Celiac Disease, became pregnant. She being one of the only other people in Gainesville I knew to be gluten-free, we struck up somewhat of a digital friendship in the midst of our mutual plight–we were both new to the GF lifestyle. Naturally, I saw her pregnancy as the opportunity to hound her about all those questions I’d asked myself those first few gluten-free months.
Jenny is about 2 weeks from having a little girl, and was kind enough to let me interview her about celiac pregnancy and beyond.
Are there any risks associated with Celiac Disease and pregnancy?
There’s actually a larger risk of miscarriage if you don’t know you have Celiac Disease, but having managed Celiac Disease is usually not an issue. I researched a little when we first found out we were pregnant, and the articles I found said that it was safe for most people to conceive if they had been following the gluten free diet for a year or longer to give your intestines time to heal and absorb nutrients properly.
For me, the biggest concern I’ve had is eating enough when I’m busy – most gluten free “fast food” is pretty low in calories and gluten free cereals aren’t fortified like mainstream cereals are. In the first trimester, it was a struggle to eat enough fiber and whole grains.
What are some tips your doctor gave you – eating even though you’re nauseous and things like that? Do you have to take extra vitamins?
In the first trimester, eating even when you’re nauseous was a recommendation, but the doctor would tell me things like keep Saltine crackers by my bed. I haven’t found a gluten free cracker that I like enough to eat on it’s own, so I had to make my husband make me a lot of toast with peanut butter and I ate a lot of rice cakes.
I take a prenatal vitamin – New Chapter Organic Perfect Prenatal. The bottle says it’s gluten-free, but it does contain oats. I have felt so much better from taking it that my little sister has started taking it to help with her Celiac Disease and she’s seen improvement as well.
The only other thing I have to watch out for is exercising enough and eating a healthy diet. It’s easy for someone with Celiac Disease to go a few days eating nothing but ice cream and fruit.
Are there special precautions you have to take, other than the usual – staying away from gluten, cross contamination, etc.
I have had trouble gaining weight consistently throughout the pregnancy. For example, during one five-week period I gained 12 pounds, but the next three weeks I only gained 2 and the subsequent three weeks I gained nothing. Because of that, my doctor sent me to see a nutritionist last week. I have this huge list of foods, and I am supposed to eat a protein, a healthy fat and a fiber at every meal. I’m also supposed to eat every three hours and eat a second dinner right before bed since I keep waking up hungry at 5 a.m. Other than eating as much as possible, I just have to do the usual gluten avoiding things.
There was one other thing that made me nervous. I have Rh- blood, and they wanted me to take a shot called Rhogam. My husband follows a much more natural lifestyle than I do, so he didn’t want me to take it just because he doesn’t like using medicine as a precaution, and when I researched it there was some mention of immunity issues. After a discussion with my OB/GYN she called a local gastroenterologist to check if Rhogam had any special adverse side effects for Celiac Disease patients, and he said there weren’t any problems. As a result, I finally have a GI Doctor that I feel like knows more about Celiac Disease than I do!
What are some of your favorite gluten-free craving busters? I can imagine sometimes you just want a big slice of pizza or a huge piece of cake.
I live across a courtyard from a pizza place and have been to so many weddings since pregnancy that those are two major problems!
I actually bring cookies or some other dessert to weddings and parties so I don’t get sad about the cake, and I have to make a lot of food I wouldn’t normally bother making. The pregnancy cravings for me are more about being easily influenced by what other people are eating or what I see on commercials. So after an IHOP commercial I have to get out the expensive King Arthur GF pancake mix and I spent an entire weekend trying unsuccessfully to replicate corn nuggets after a visit to a southern BBQ restaurant.
On a regular basis, I keep Bora Bora bars, walnuts mixed with craisins, apples, and/or little chocolates in my purse to help ward off hunger.
Has your doctor told you the likelihood of your child also having Celiac? If so, what are your immediate plans for dealing with that?
The risk of my daughter having Celiac Disease is 1 in 22, according to www.celiac.com. At home, we eat almost completely gluten-free already; my husband only has his own cereals and occasionally cookies.
I did use Celiac Disease as a way to help interview potential pediatricians. My first question was, “What do you know about Celiac Disease and how to test for it in young children?” We’re going to treat it like any other possible allergen. After we start her eating other solid foods, we’re going to introduce wheat cereal and watch her closely for about a week without introducing any other new foods.
If she seems to stay the same we’ll continue her on wheat. If she has any problems, we’ll stop and I might try again when she’s older so that she can have the blood test done and we’ll know for sure.
Now that I can stop wondering about events that haven’t even begun to begin to take place, I can turn my attention to more immediate worries, like what to have for lunch!