Celiac Disease and Unborn Children

Question:

Can an unborn baby get celiac disease from its mother?

Answer:

Celiac disease occurs in patients who are genetically susceptible. This means that if you have celiac disease, it is possible that you could pass your genes along to your children. However, the risk of celiac disease in a first-degree relative (parents, offspring, and siblings) of a patient with celiac disease is not 100%. The risk is actually estimated to be between 5 and 10%. 

It is important to understand that even if you pass the genes responsible for celiac disease along to your children, the disease may not occur. To develop the disease, a person must have both the genetic susceptibility plus an abnormal immune system response to gluten. Because the development of celiac disease requires direct exposure to gluten, it does not begin before the baby is born or in infancy.

We believe that a person must be exposed to gluten for at least 6 months to 1 year before the disease occurs.  We recommend that first-degree relatives of patients with celiac disease be tested for celiac disease with a blood test after age 3, once there has been adequate exposure to gluten.

Sincerely,

Center for Celiac Disease at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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