Updated: Apr 9, 2019
While working with pregnant women, i've noticed there is no shortage of advice in regard to taking a prenatal supplement or vitamin.
Nearly every woman I meet has been instructed by her doctor at the first check up to start taking a supplement, if they haven't been already, to ensure the optimal development of their baby.
But what if the prenatal you've been using isn't actually working the way we would like?
What if your body couldn't use the form of essential ingredients in your prenatal and so your baby is going without?
Let me explain...
Folate is an absolute essential when it comes to the formation of the neural tube (brain and spinal cord) of our little ones. Without it, we can see a higher prevalence of defects such as spina bifida and higher rates of miscarriage.
We can get folate by diet with things like green leafy veg, legumes, avocado etc. or we can ensure that no matter what we're eating we have adequate levels by taking a supplement.
The trick with taking a supplement is that most use the synthetic form of folic acid in their ingredients. in order for it to be at all useful, we need to be able to convert folic acid to the natural form, folate,
This happens via a process called methylation. Methylation can be prevented if a person has one of four MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) gene mutations.
It is estimated 50% of the population have at least one of these gene mutations.
What's even more interesting is it's now understood that not only can this mutation make it difficult to methylate synthetic folic acid into folate, it can also prevent the absorption of the natural folate we ARE getting through diet etc. Which clearly poses even more significance to the health of our baby.
And it's not just women. Men too can have this mutation and have their fertility effected by sub par levels of folate.
So how do we ensure we have enough folate getting into our system??
Regardless of having the mutation or not, you can take a high quality prenatal vitamin or supplement that has folate rather than synthetic folic acid, without any risk to you or your baby.
It will generally look like 5-MTHF or 5-Methyletetrahydrofolate on packaging.
If you're not sure if you have the mutation, or which prenatal is right for you, check in with your pregnancy trained Naturopath who will be able to guide you in the right direction.
It's also worth noting here that lots of our breads, cereals, pastas etc. (foods that are consumed in abundance by the general population) have been laced with folic acid in a noble act by governments around the world, to boost levels of folate in the parents to be and therefore minimise the rate of neural tube defects and miscarriage.
If you are one of the 50% estimated to have one of these mutations it would be well worth your while discussing this with your Naturopath as you may want to avoid these foods all together for the reasons previously discussed.
One of the brands that tick the boxes for MTHFR gene mutations is https://mygenhealth.com.au which can be sourced from most natural therapists or online.
1. Morales-Borges RH (2014) Prevalence of MTHFR C677T and A1298C Mutations and Thrombophilia in Puerto Rico. J Blood Disord Transfus 5:213. doi: 10.4172/2155-9864.1000213