Dr. Doni, naturopathic doctor and midwife, explains how MTHFR increases risk of miscarriage and how to get the right kind of support for your pregnancy.
This article is part 6 of a series on how genetic mutations affect our health. The first five articles describe genetic mutations (SNPs), how to test for them, and how they affect the methylation cycle and mood. If you missed any of these posts and wish to catch up, click the link above.
MTHFR and Pregnancy
This week I want to discuss how undiagnosed MTHFR mutations can affect your chances of getting pregnant and how you can increase your chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy even if you are affected.
One of the most rewarding parts of my practice is helping women conceive a pregnancy. This is because so many women go through years of trying everything including seeing numerous practitioners, sometimes all at once, in order to get pregnant. So when it happens, it is extremely exciting. When it doesn’t happen, it is one of the most difficult challenges for a woman to face.
I hear story after story of women who have had four, five, or more miscarriages—without any understanding of why it was happening. Others had babies with spina bifida, Down’s syndrome, and/or other birth defects in spite of following all the advice for a healthy pregnancy and taking their folic acid regularly. In many of these cases, the culprit is an undiagnosed MTHFR mutation that they were either never tested for or only learned about when it was too late.
What is MTHFR?
MTHFR is an enzyme that turns folic acid into folate. If you have a genetic mutation on the gene that creates the MTHFR enzyme, it means that your body will be less able to use folic acid to benefit your health. Instead, you are left with an increased risk of miscarriage, as well as many other potential health issues such as fatigue, headaches, anxiety, depression, and more. Read more about MTHFR here.
Thankfully, more practitioners—and especially fertility specialists—are becoming aware of MTHFR and the role it plays in early pregnancy. We’ve heard for decades that it is important for women to take folic acid, but that was either downright wrong or only partially helpful. All along it was methylfolate that was the missing piece of the puzzle.
Folate is extremely important for the creation of new cells so it makes all the sense in the world that you need extra in early pregnancy when you consider that babies are 100% new cells. Folate is especially important for the development of a baby’s nervous system, which occurs within the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant. If she does not have enough folate available to help support this crucial stage in her baby’s development, by the time she gets to the 6th or 7th week of pregnancy (2 or 3 weeks after missing a period), a miscarriage can occur.
When this happens, many women are left feeling as if it is all their fault. They feel ashamed, embarrassed, isolated, and confused, wondering why their body is not able to maintain a pregnancy. But it’s not their fault. The problem is that many doctors are not trained to even look for MTHFR mutations never mind treat them. This is exactly why I specialize in MTHFR and helping women conceive.
In fact, I not only help women get pregnant, but also to get healthy prior to conceiving and then to support energy, sleep, mood, and nutrition throughout their pregnancy. Just as we discussed in my article last week, mood can be greatly affected by MTHFR mutations, and many women would prefer to avoid prescription medication for anxiety and depression while trying to conceive and while pregnant and breastfeeding. All of this is possible by understanding your genetic mutations, cortisol, and neurotransmitter levels, and supporting your body with nutrients that are not only safe during pregnancy, but essential.
The need to understand the effect of the MTHFR mutation on your health only gains more power when we consider that the health of a mom (and dad too, by the way) when she conceives a pregnancy influences the health of her baby for the rest of his/her life. So it’s not just about avoiding a miscarriage. It’s about helping moms be as healthy as they can be so their children, and their children’s children, can be healthier no matter what comes their way in life.
What can you do about it?
If you know that you have an MTHFR mutation, what you need to know when choosing a practitioner is whether they are familiar with and have experience helping patients with the mutation. Even if your prenatal care provider (whether an OB or midwife) does not have experience, if you choose a naturopathic doctor to support you alongside your prenatal care with the right amount of the right nutrients, you’re more likely to be successful in your quest to become pregnant.
To read more about how to support MTHFR and your methylation cycle, click here.
If you don’t know whether you have an MTHFR mutation, but you suspect that perhaps you do, then your next step is to do a test and find out. You can either request that your practitioner test for it in a blood test; just know going into it that insurance often does not cover this test, so be prepared to pay out of pocket. Or—and this is often the next step anyway—you can do a genetic panel, such as through 23andme, and run your genetic data through a reporting system that can tell you whether you have MTHFR mutations and/or any other significant SNPs. Read all about the testing process here.
I encourage you to be your own health advocate and love that you are reading this article to learn more. At the same time though, it can definitely be worth your while to find a practitioner to help walk you through this process, whether you are testing for MTHFR mutations or if you know already you have one and are looking to address it.
It is exactly for this reason that I created a consultation and test package for genetic profiling. It includes the tests and consultations that have helped other women in my practice. The package includes an initial consultation, so that I can get to know you and your case, as well as the testing I mention here, for genetic mutations and the tests that help us know how the mutations are affecting your body. It also includes follow-up consultations, email support, and discounted rates on any supplements I recommend during the program. You can find out about the package here and if you prefer to talk it through with me first, you can set up a “Get Acquainted” call here.
I’d be happy to help you address MTHFR and to prepare for a healthy pregnancy. Just a few weeks ago we had a “baby boom” in my office with six new babies born within a few weeks of each other. All of those moms were taking methylfolate before and during their pregnancy, along with the supplements* I include in my Pregnancy Solutions Protocol.
What is your experience with MTHFR and miscarriage? Have you or someone you know been affected by not knowing you needed methylfolate? Please share your comments below.
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23rd April 2015
*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.
Photo credit: “Baby Bump Photo Shoot: David & Sarah’s Pregnancy Session” by David Veksler is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Changed from original: Added text overlays.