If you’re like me, you read this and thought of a bad word. Or you might be a mature adult and didn’t think anything of the sort. MTHFR actually stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. It is a gene that helps your body make a protein that is essential to processing folate. However, the gene can mutate. Essentially, with the mutation, your body isn’t correctly breaking down folic acid and sometimes requires methylfolate instead. If you have the gene mutation, it can cause a person to have some health problems, too. Unless your doctor checks for it and does genetic testing, you aren’t going to know. So how did I come to find this out for myself?
Before I dive into why I wanted to write about this for so long and why it was such a sensitive topic for me, let me just say that I am not a medical professional as you all know and I write solely based on my own experiences. These experiences usually range from checking my child’s diaper to assess the color of poop, wiping boogies, taking temperatures, and making pastina when my kids don’t feel well. There’s nothing like a mother’s intuition, but it still doesn’t give me a license to practice.
I have written about my recurrent miscarriages before. My close friends and family saw me through a very hard time after Reagan was born. After getting pregnant with Reagan relatively easily and having a healthy pregnancy, I naively assumed my future experiences would also go well. I was young and didn’t really know anyone who had multiple miscarriages and no one was really talking about the topic. When Reagan was almost two I got pregnant with twins and was very surprised. I remember laughing like a maniac when the doctor told me there were definitely two babies in there. The excitement was short lived when I found out I had lost the babies at my 12 week appointment. They had passed shortly after my nine week check-up and I had no idea. After this traumatic loss, I went on to have more miscarriages. I was at a loss to why this kept happening. I got pregnant so easily only to lose the baby soon after. After the third loss, I decided to see a specialist who told me that medically everything looked good and it was just bad luck. In my heart, I knew something was off.
In 2016, I finally welcomed Johnny after multiple miscarriages. In 2019, I got pregnant with Tristan. Throughout both of these pregnancies, I was a total wreck. At an early appointment for my pregnancy with Tristan, I was speaking to my mid wife about my concerns and anxieties. She mentioned to me that I should be tested for the MTHFR gene. She said it wasn’t a common test because only 30% of women have it. I remember thinking that the number seemed high enough for me that all women should have it done, especially since some people feel that people with the mutation have a higher risk for recurrent pregnancy loss. Sure enough, after the tests came back, it all made sense to me. I can’t say for sure that having the mutation was a factor in all of my losses, but it definitely seemed more likely than saying bad luck. I remember crying and thanking her for being so thorough, especially since my fertility specialist never even mentioned it. She told me that I immediately had to buy prenatal vitamins that had methylfolate and NOT folic acid since my body couldn’t break it down properly. I shuddered at the thought of me religiously taking my prenatal vitamins with Reagan and Johnny not knowing that my body wasn’t getting what I needed from the folic acid. I wound up buying Mama Bird prenatal vitamins that had methylfolate and never looked back. I also remember comparing the birth weights of my children after having this new knowledge. Reagan and Johnny were both past their due dates and measured on the smaller sides, while Tristan was a week early (induced) and was 8 pounds, 3 ounces. I wondered if the vitamins played a role in this.
Why am I writing this? I could have written this from a more emotional standpoint and I have done that in previous posts. But I wanted women to know that they always need to advocate for themselves. If you feel something is off or not right, demand that extra test. Ask for all the options. If you feel your doctor is not hearing you, switch. It upsets me to think of all the years I dealt with loss, not having all of the information. I am not saying that my losses could have been prevented. I can’t prove that and I will never know the truth, but my heart feels that they were connected to not having the proper resources and care that I needed during that time.
And please know, if you are hurting and need help, or are sad and just need a friend to talk to, I am here. As a mother, as a woman, as a friend, if you have questions about pregnancy, or about a topic that is child related or not, we need to be there for one another, and I am here. For me talking about my experiences was therapeutic and if this information can help another person out, well then that is good enough for me.