Why is MTHFR so important in preconception and pregnancy?

MTHFR (methyl-tetrahydrofolate reductase).

It is an enzyme in your body that converts the folate you eat (like in leafy greens and legumes) into the active form called 5-MTHF, or, 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate. It controls the production of the active form of folate which ensure you make good DNA.

The confusing thing is that most Dr’s and obstetricians and IVF clinics either don’t know what it is or if they do, they don’t know what to do about it.

During pregnancy, your baby is growing rapidly in the first few months of life. It is essential that your active folate is at an appropriate level to ensure your baby doesn’t have neural tube defects like spina bifida, cleft lip and cleft palate. It also ensures that you, the mum, have a good pregnancy.

If you have a mutation in your MTHFR gene, the ability of your body to create healthy levels of active folate will be decreased. This will result in less active folate available for your body to use in several very important processes.

What is Folic acid, Folinic acid and Methyl folate (5-MTHF)?

The term folate is confusing because everyone uses one thing to mean the other. So, think of folate as an umbrella term. Under that umbrella you have folic acid, folinic acid and 5-MTHF. Folic acid is manmade, synthetic and has no physiological role in your body until your body converts it. Folinic acid is very important for purine synthesis (meaning DNA synthesis and repair) and then 5-MTHF which is your active folate. Only Folinic and 5-MTHF are active forms of folate, folic acid is not.

So, it is the reduction in the active folate resulting of a MTHFR mutation that can create problems during preconception and pregnancy

In preconception and pregnancy, you need good levels of active folate for:

  • Creating healthy DNA for both you and your child. This is the biggest reason why knowing your MTHFR gene result is so important. Active folate is directly involved in the synthesis of new DNA. And while we have a constant demand to produce new and healthy DNA, during pregnancy you use not only active folate for you but also for the new life growing inside your womb. You can easily imagine that demand for this increase massively during pregnancy. As you know DNA abnormalities affect your ability to fall pregnant, may result in miscarriage or a baby born with genetic issues.
  • Folate also prevents levels of a substance called homocysteine from climbing too high, which can be related to blood clots and this can result in miscarriage.
  • The active folate creates ‘methyl groups’, needed for many things in your body detoxification processes, neurotransmitters synthesis, synthesis of creatine and phosphatidylcholine but also to regulate your DNA and tell the DNA what to do. We need healthy levels of these methyl groups to methylate/instruct your DNA and, without it, cells are uncontrolled and can start to cause problems.
  • Folate helps the formation of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, which are vital for both the health of the mother during pregnancy, and for the health of the child during pregnancy and after birth as they begin to rapidly grow and encounter bacteria and pathogens to strengthen their immune system.

Addressing and supporting your MTHFR genes during your preconception phase is the best way to support your body once you fall pregnant, and the growth and development of your new baby.

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