MTHFR; What Anna Learned to Help Her Get Pregnant Easily

 What is MTHFR and how can it improve my fertility? 

I was 33 years old when I started preparing for pregnancy.

Not "advanced maternal age"... yet... but it didn't escape me that my days of peak fertility were probably behind me. So, my first step in preparing was to make sure everything was in working order. I did thorough testing including a GI workup, genetic testing, micronutrient testing, a hormone panel and a cardiometabolic panel. 

Given my health-obsessed lifestyle, I was surprised by many of the findings, from nutrient deficiencies to a Celiac diagnosis (had no idea!) The piece of knowledge that I am SO THANKFUL to have learned early on is that I have a MTHFR gene mutation. 

WTF is MTHFR? 

Great question. I had no idea either. 

MTHFR is a gene in your DNA that carries instructions for making the enzyme, methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. This enzyme donates a methyl group in a process called methylation to convert folate and other B vitamins into their usable form. (The metabolic pathway is much more complex, but I'm keeping the explanation short and sweet for this post). 

You've probably heard of folate and how essential it is for preventing neural tube defects in a fetus. To break it way down, the MTHFR gene determines whether you have enough methylated folate for your fetus to develop normally.

Note that MTHFR gene abnormalities are not a black-and-white, you have it or you don't, thing. The severity of potential issues depend on whether both of your parents passed on a mutated MTHFR allele, and where on the gene the abnormality occurs. 

Knowing about MTHFR helped me get pregnant & carry a healthy pregnancy to term. 

If the precursors to folate do not receive the methyl group they need to "turn on", then issues can occur from recurrent miscarriages to neural tube defects to low-birth weight and preterm babies.

An estimated 10-25% of people in the U.S. are homozygous, meaning genes from both of their parents carry a mutation. Although these odds are high, stick with me, because we're about to get to the happy ending. 

Folic Acid vs Folate

Folic acid is the synthetic form of the nutrient found in fortified cereals and most prenatal vitamins. Folate, by contrast, is the form found naturally in foods. If you have the MTHFR mutation, your ability to methylate the synthetic folic acid into the usable form, folate, is impaired. The mutation may interfere with your utilization of other B vitamins, as well, particularly B12. 

The solution is to skip the prenatals with folic acid and instead source a prenatal vitamin that contains methylated folate, labeled on the ingredients as 5-MTHF or 5-methyl-tetra-hydro-folate. 

Ideally, this supplement will also have methylated B12. (See Demystifying the Prenatal Vitamin). 

We often recommend Thorne, Zahler and Seeking Health* prenatals.

don't know if you have the mutation? go ahead and take a prenatal vitamin with methylated-folate and b vitamins.


Taking methylated vitamins is perfectly safe for anyone with or without the gene mutation. Plus, taking methylated B vitamins will increase your chance of conceiving naturally, while lowering your risk of miscarriage and potential birth defects.

It's a no-brainer. 

Also, be sure to eat a diet rich in the naturally occurring form of folate. Our Prepare for Pregnancy Program includes two weeks of folate-packed recipes.  

I can only speculate how my conception journey could have gone if I had not started taking methylated folate and B vitamins. Thankfully, I took action early and nine months later, had my sweet baby boy. 

Equipped with the right knowledge, you can improve your fertility too. Contact us to learn how. 

You were made for this!

XO,

Anna

*We do not have any affiliation with these brands.