One of the most common things I hear is the utter confusion many people find themselves in after they:
- Just discovered the MTHFR gene and fell down an internet rabbit hole try to research and understand it all
- Were tested for it but received no explanation on its effects
- Were prescribed treatments that instead of helping made them feel worse
- Were told it may be one of facets playing a role in their present health issues, but have no idea what it is
With the wealth of scientific (and at times confusing and complex) information found online surrounding MTHFR, it is no wonder many end up going around in circles and getting confused!
This is can be especially amplified in the case of those searching for clear and reliable information when it comes to MTHFR in preconception and pregnancy, as they are both very important topics where the health of both mother and child can rely on thoroughly understanding this vital information!
This article aims to plainly spell out what MTHFR actually is in the scope of preconception and pregnancy, both highlighting its general role in the body, and vital role both before and during pregnancy.
So, what is MTHFR? And why is MTHFR important in preconception and pregnancy?
MTHFR actually stands for methylene-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.
This diagram below shows us that the folate from your food, represented by the ‘DHF’ (dihydrofolate), must be converted via many steps down into your active folate, 5-MTHF.
You can see the MTHFR enzyme comes in at this last step of the process. This means, that if you have a mutation in your MTHFR gene, the ability for your body to create healthy levels of active folate will be affected or decreased. This will result in less active folate available for your body to use in several very important processes.
This is where the link between MTHFR and preconception and pregnancy arises. Several of the vital processed that we need active folate for are highly active during times of preconception and pregnancy and need to be working well to support a healthy pregnancy.
In preconception and pregnancy, you need good levels of active folate for:
- Creating healthy DNA for both you and your future 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 for the production of new and healthy DNA, you can imagine that demand for this hugely increases during pregnancy, when you are growing a new life! Issues with not enough healthy DNA available for both mother and growing child can result in issues with pregnancy, foetal growth and general childhood development.
- Preventing levels of a substance in the body called homocysteine from climbing too high, which can be related to blood clots and increasing risk of blot clot formation during pregnancy.
- To create molecules called ‘methyl groups’, which act as instruction manuals for your DNA and cells, telling them the correct way to ‘behave’, so they do not do anything unwanted (e.g. cause disease or dysfunction within the body). 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.
- Formation of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, which are all vital for both the health of the mother during pregnancy, and also for the health of the child during pregnancy and after birth as they begin to rapidly grow and come into contact with bacteria and pathogens to strengthen their immune system.
As you can see, addressing and supporting your MTHFR genes during your preconception phase is the best way to healthily support both your body once you fall pregnant, and the growth and development of your new baby.
Knowing your MTHFR gene result and supporting your folate levels where needed is a key step in preconception, and both should not be undervalued!
Founder of MTHFR Support Australia