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Real mothers: living with coeliac disease

Eliana Bertaux tells us how her extreme gluten intolerance left her body severely rundown - then she found out she was pregnant. How did she cope? And will CD affect her daughter?


Posted: 8 December 2006
by Eliana Bertaux


As part of our series of articles about real mothers’ experiences of pregnancy and parenthood, we hear from Eliana, who got seriously ill before she was finally diagnosed with a serious ongoing condition: celiac disease (or coeliac disease).
Then she discovered she was pregnant.
Her allergy to gluten had left her body in much need of a rest, so how did pregnancy work out, and how does she feel about her condition affecting her daughter’s future?

Eliana says:
Gluten? No thanks, I’ve quit!

When I was told that I had celiac disease (Intolerance to gluten) I was surprised and relieved at the same time. The sense of relief came from the fact that finally I knew for sure that my problems were not in my head. For a few years I had been unwell not knowing what was wrong with me.

Finding out what “Celiac” meant
Celiac disease is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is found in bread, pasta, cookies and other foods containing wheat, barley, rye and oats.
When a person with celiac disease eats foods containing gluten, the immunological reaction causes an inflammation that destroys the lining of the small intestine. This reduces the absorption of important nutrients (vitamins, calcium, protein, carbohydrates, fats and others) and can lead to symptoms and signs of nutritional, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies. The symptoms are associated with malnutrition and “malabsorption”.
With the diagnosis, it all started to make sense. However the years of “ignorance” towards my body had left me with a few health problems to sort out. One of them was osteoporosis. Blood tests did not look great. The doctor asked me if I was trying for a baby or if I had experienced miscarriages in my life. Thank God that had not happened, and I told him that I was not trying for a baby.
At that point he advised me not to try for a bit longer… My body was too weak and there was a great possibility that I could not handle a pregnancy…

’Just don’t get pregnant.’
And there I was… I was not trying for a baby, the doc told me to wait, and I became broody. Why was this happening? Because I had just got married, and I always wanted to be a mum…
What if I couldn’t?
The doctors were great; they supported me in every way and guided me with a positive attitude towards a gradual recovery. I followed religiously the specialists’ advice. I started the gluten free diet and all my cures for tackling different issues…
I stopped taking the pill because my liver was damaged too, and I focused on getting stronger, preparing myself for a long wait before getting pregnant. I was careful… or so I thought.

So – I got pregnant!
It was summer 2002. I had been boosted with vitamin B12 (I needed injections for three months, once a month), iron, calcium and every sort of vitamin. I had been on folic acid for eight months. I had been on a very healthy diet, making sure to eat at least three pieces of fruit a day and to eat lots of vegetables.
In about four months I started to have my energy and my life back. The fatigue and the strong pains I had suffered for such a long time started to disappear.
The doc told me that if the results of my tests due in February were OK, I could then start to try for a baby.
I got pregnant in January… oh-ohh!
The doc checked me straight away, there was a bit of a worry but things were perfectly fine.
It was like the pregnancy had put everything back together in one go. I had a great pregnancy (through all that, I had never been anaemic!) and Lila Grace was born three weeks early, in September 2003. I delivered a healthy, beautiful baby!

Lila Grace’s future
Celiac disease runs in the family.
It seems that if one member of the family has celiac disease, about one out of ten other members of the family is likely to have it.
My daughter has been checked; the results of the tests are negative so far. I did introduce gluten in her diet when she was about seven/eight months – if she had the disorder I had to know sooner rather than later.
But having said that, I have been cautious with the introduction of every new food in Lila Grace’s diet. Every new introduction has been gradual.
I started with small doses, increased once my daughter wasn’t showing any sign of distress. If she was allergic to something (I have learned that there is always a possibility), I did not want to give her system a big shock.
My parents do not have CD. I still haven’t found another person with the disorder in my family but I am encouraging all of them to do the test, which is a simple blood test. An early diagnosis, like for everything really, can help to avoid additional (and sometimes serious) problems.
I have got used to the food now, and the kinds of gluten free food you can buy are getting better and better. In fact, my little monkey steals mummy’s GF biscuits all the time!

Eliana lives with her husband Thomas and her three-year-old daughter Lila Grace in Canterbury. She moved there from London a year ago. She works as a researcher in Talent Acquisition and she has been self-employed since her daughter was six months old.

If you'd like to know more about celiac/coeliac disease or think you might have the condition, visit www.coeliac.co.uk.


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Discuss this story

Do you have a serious condition which made pregnancy a worry or difficult? How did you overcome that barrier? Or are you looking for support and experiences from other women like you?

Posted: 07/12/2006 at 16:27

We do not have any problems as such, however we live with my mother who is a Coeliac.

She was the group organiser for Nottinghamshire Coeliac Society, and I have been trained to cook and take pride in preparing gluten free food and it will be a speciallity in our pub / resturant which we are hoping to choose in the new year.

If anyone feels that they need sound advice or a recipe idea or two please don't hesitate to leave a note for me on this forum.

Chris

Posted: 07/12/2006 at 17:11

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