MTHFR and Pregnancy
My personal experience with MTHFR started in 2014 when my best friend lost her son due to stillbirth at 34 weeks gestation. There was no explanation for this loss after a healthy pregnancy up till this point. She just noticed reduced movement one day and when she went in to get checked there was no heartbeat. I stood by her side in that moment and our lives went into a tailspin. In the months following her son Greyson’s death, and many many appointments and tests later we found out that she had a gene mutation called MTHFR which we promptly started referring to as the “Mother F*cker” gene mutation because the problems it causes make it a total Mother-Effer!
Since learning all of this, my friend has gone on to have two healthy pregnancies and now has healthy 4 year old and 2 year old boys, but the journey was really hard and we’ve all learned a lot along the way.
What is MTHFR?
MTHFR is a gene mutation that affects the way your body processes folate. Most people don’t even know they have this gene even though it’s estimated that 40% of individuals do. It often doesn’t present any obvious problems but many woman that have this mutation often find out during pregnancy and reproduction when faced with repeated miscarriage or stillbirth. Even then, many women with MTHFR mutations have multiple successful pregnancies before they discover that they have an MTHFR mutation, they often discover it after it’s too late and they’ve suffered the unbearable loss of a baby.
Blood Clotting caused by MTHFR
Research has shown that the MTHFR mutation can cause blood clots during pregnancy between the growing placenta and uterine wall, in an area called “low flow maternal-placental interface”, which prevents transport of nutrients to the baby. It can occur early in the pregnancy when the fetus is super vulnerable causing repeated miscarriages or later in the pregnancy when a clot forms in the placenta or umbilical cord and causes stillbirth.
MTHFR and Blood Thinners
Depending on which type of mutation of MTHFR you have, your doctor may prescribe a daily baby aspirin or a more extreme protocol of daily injections of a blood thinner called Lovenox. If you know you have MTHFR and are pregnant than you should already be seeing a maternal fetal medicine (MFM) specialist who will discuss your specific mutation and whether you need injections or not.
With her subsequent pregnancies, my friend ended up needing Lovenox and started giving herself a daily shot in her abdomen every day around 8 weeks and continued until several weeks after her baby was born. She saved all of the syringes and took this amazing picture with her rainbow baby when he was a newborn.
Most pregnant women know that taking a prenatal vitamin is common practice, but for moms with MTHFR, who process folate differently, it’s important to take a prenatal vitamin that uses methylfolate instead of synthetic folic acid which can be harder to find (here’s the one my friend took).
Since excess homocysteine is a common side effect of MTHFR and high homocysteine can cause complications like pre-eclampsia and miscarriage it is important to monitor these levels although it’s been pointed out that complications can occur as a result of MTHFR even if your homocysteine levels remain normal.
Hope for the Future
I know all of can be really scary and confusing and is often amplified by the emotional trauma and devastation of having already suffered one or more losses but it often helps moms to know that there is hope and that many women with diagnosed and treated MTHFR have gone on to have healthy pregnancies and babies and when you are holding your rainbow baby in yours arms, everything will be worth it.