Pregnancy can be an exciting yet scary time for women. We are told to watch what we eat, but to also make sure we are getting enough calories. Our doctors remind us to exercise daily, but to be cautious about overdoing it. Finally, we are told that we need to be supplementing our already scrutinized diets with a good quality prenatal vitamin to support the overall health and development of our growing baby. However, the harsh reality is that many women leave the doctor’s office with zero guidance as to what constitutes a “good” prenatal. For those with a MTHFR gene variance, there are specific things you should be looking for.
One vitamin that is essential to the growth and development of your baby is folate. However, rather than using the active form of folate, many companies use a cheaper, synthetic version of folate called folic acid.
So, what’s the difference, and why does it matter for me and my developing baby?
Although both folic acid and folate are versions of the vitamin B9, folic acid is synthetic. Women who have a MTHFR variant cannot convert folic acid into 5MTHF, the active form of folate that is readily used by the body. Consequently, folic acid actually builds up in the blood and can cause negative side effects.
If you’re starting to worry, you shouldn’t. The majority of people with a MTHFR gene mutation lead healthy, vibrant lives, as long as they learn how to support the methylation pathways in their bodies. In order to support methylation, it is important to first ensure you are getting adequate rest every night and eating a balanced diet high in folate-rich foods and B12.
Studies have shown that folate, in conjunction with methylcobalamin (vitamin B(12)), helps to prevent neural tube defects in early pregnancy. Folate is actually required for fetal, placental and maternal tissue growth during pregnancy. Additionally, a study showed that metabolic impairment of folate and cobalamin (vitamin B(12)) was observed in babies with neural tube defects. Unfortunately, even with a diet rich in these vitamins, some people (for various reasons) are still deficient.
Okay, now you’re really starting to worry.
Here’s why you have permission to exhale: There’s backup. We’ve already learned that people with a MTHFR gene variance cannot convert folic acid to its active form. If you choose to get your levels tested and discover that you are still deficient in one or both of these vitamins, high-quality supplements that support methylation, such as these, can help. Methylcobalamin and L-methylfolate, when taken together, work synergistically along the methylation cycle pathway and help the process to work optimally.
Sadly, there are only a handful of prenatal vitamins on the market that currently use these forms of folate and B12. This is why methyl-life products are a good choice, especially during the first trimester when a significant portion of neuro-development occurs.
Ultimately, equipping ourselves with this knowledge can only help to optimize pregnancy. It may be worth getting tested for the MTHFR mutation before trying to conceive or early on in pregnancy so you can make an informed decision when it comes to necessary supplementation.