Women with unexplained infertility are at heightened risk for having undiagnosed celiac disease (CD), which may be a modifiable and treatable risk factor, research suggests.

To determine whether an increased prevalence of undiagnosed CD might exist among a population of infertile women, investigators conducted a prospective cohort study at a U.S. infertility clinic. Serologic screening uncovered CD in four of 188 subjects, translating to an overall prevalence in this population of 2.1%.

Although this rate was not significantly higher than the expected 1.3%, undiagnosed CD was significantly more prevalent in the subset of 51 women presenting with unexplained infertility: Three (5.9%) of these women had previously undiagnosed CD (J Reprod Med. 2011;56:199-203).

All four women found to have CD underwent nutrition counseling to help them change over to a gluten-free diet. All four became pregnant within a year of diagnosis.

“Diagnosing CD in an infertile woman would be particularly beneficial if the low-cost (and low-risk) therapy of pursuing a gluten-free diet could improve chances for conception,” study researcher, Janet Choi, MD, said in a statement.