GrapevineOct/Nov 2009 Issue

Eating A Gluten Free Diet While Pregnant

Gluten free for baby and me.


Gluten Free Diet While Pregnant

John Dowland/Photo Alto/age fotostock

I was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago. Like many celiacs, I had symptoms for nearly a decade before finally figuring out that gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye and barley, was making me very sick.

I have finally mastered the gluten-free lifestyle. When I became pregnant last year, nothing changed about my diet. I continued to bring quinoa salad, crust-less quiche and gluten-free bread sandwiches with me to the office. My co-workers, who had always eyed my brown bag lunches with curiosity, seemed to think my new condition should have me rethinking my diet. Now that you’re pregnant, they asked, are you still planning to eat gluten free?

Of course, I explained. It’s not a lifestyle choice. Strictly adhering to my diet is probably the single most important thing I can do for my baby and me. But they seemed to feel that being on a diet of any kind was worrisome for a pregnant woman. Here are the questions I heard most often:

Aren’t you missing out on whole grains and fiber since you can’t have wheat? Fair question. I had wondered the same thing when I was first diagnosed. But with the help of a nutritionist, I found plenty of good-for-you gluten-free grains, like quinoa, teff and millet, that are chock-full of fiber, which I’d learned was particularly important to keep my sometimes sluggish gut going.

Don’t you have cravings for foods like doughnuts or pizza? Sure. I had a few hormonal hankerings, especially for ice cream. Luckily, I was able to indulge my cravings with a brand of ice cream that I triple-checked to make sure was gluten free. And just to feel a bit like a diva, I once sent my husband out at an insanely late hour for a pint. He humored my whim, driving to several grocery stores before he found one that stocked that particular variety.

Do you want to cheat? No. I wasn't able to get pregnant when I was still eating gluten. Back then, I was rail-thin, anemic and far too exhausted to carry a bag of groceries, let alone carry a baby. During my pregnancy, I felt like the picture of health, a ripe and flowering gluten-free goddess, and I wasn’t about to cheat myself out of feeling that good.

Will you gain enough weight? Yes. I’m on a gluten-free diet, not a calorie-restricted diet. Indeed, I gained a healthy 22 pounds and delivered a bouncing baby girl right on schedule. A welcome surprise was that taking off the pregnancy weight was mercifully easier than I expected.

These days despite being busy changing diapers and washing countless loads of laundry, my gluten-free diet is a top priority for me as a new mother. I’m nursing my daughter and once again I assure inquiring co-workers that there’s no need to consume gluten in order to successfully breastfeed a baby. And while I’ve never felt hungrier than during these postpartum months, I have never been more satisfied with my gluten-free life.

Christine Boyd has a master’s degree in public health from Yale University where she wrote her thesis on maternal celiac disease. She lives in Baltimore.


Comments (5)

I also followed the gluten free diet consulting my nutritionist and found it great to follow it.

Posted by: WilmaMeade | October 29, 2015 1:17 AM    Report this comment

I'm 47 years old. My mom does not "believe" in food allergies unless they give you horrible rashes (like she gets with chocolate and ginger, which she continues to eat). She did not eliminate any foods whatsoever when she was pregnant with me or my sisters, of course. I am massively gluten sensitive, possibly celiac (untested) with allergies to cow and sheep's milk, chocolate, caffeine in all forms, almonds, millet, and sorghum. Well, I guess she did not eat much millet or sorghum! So NOT avoiding certain foods during pregnancy/conception will also not ensure that your child is allergy free. In fact, most of the parents of peanut or milk allergic kids I know ate both foods during pregnancy freely. I've read about this and think it is just one more thing to make you anxious. If you have a problem with a food, don't eat it while you're pregnant--your health is more important to your baby's health than some ephemeral chance that avoiding that food might set the kid up for allergies later.

Posted by: Hyla D | January 29, 2013 3:16 PM    Report this comment

Frankly, I don't know why they bother to call it a "disease"! makes it sound like something everyone can catch and get sick from too. when its more of a allergy/intolerance. And no it isn't a "diet" its a way of eating. I am learning to eat more oriental dishes due to the fact that they use rice and rice noodles. And because I am also allergic to soy they kindly omit it for me and still make me a wonderful healthy tasty dish! Namaste Food mixes are also GREAT for people with Gluten, soy, dairy, corn, potato, Peanuts, tree nuts and Casein free intolerance's. Cheapest place to buy these WONDERFUL mixes of cake, bread, pizza dough, buscuit/pie mixes etc, is from try it and enjoy your cake or bread or pizza!!

Posted by: Melodyhas4 | January 29, 2013 2:52 PM    Report this comment

I have 3 kids, the first two were before I was diagnosed celiac but with the last one I was gluten free. I kept my daughter (the newest) gluten free until she was a year old due to the fact that the first year is supposedly very important as far as her getting allergies from food introductions. She has no signs of celiac now and handles wheat fine. I will most likely have her genetically tested in the future as I did my last two.

Posted by: Stacey B | January 29, 2013 10:35 AM    Report this comment

Oooh, I'm green with gluten free envy -- is that a CROISSANT she's eating?!

This is a great article, thank you for posting it. I'm considering pregnancy again, this time gluten free after being diagnosed with celiac 2.5 years ago. I'd be curious to hear whether she introduces wheat to her daughter, and at what age. Or will she have her daughter genetically tested for celiac first?

I just had a visit with my doc yesterday to talk about pregnancy and celiac and he told me that whatever foods we avoid around conception could be potential allergies for the child later on. Kind of interesting, I think. I hope I'm not setting my child up to be gluten, dairy, and egg intolerant, but I also know that it's not the end of the world if he/she is.

Posted by: Margo E | January 29, 2013 9:37 AM    Report this comment

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