Did you know a lady came to America from Spain, lied about her age to receive in vitro fertilization and had twins at the age of 66! Also, it’s true that a woman’s uterus expands to the size of a watermelon by the third trimester! Some babies are born with tiny teeth. And your heart will get a little bigger during pregnancy.
According to the World Fact Book, the United States lags behind many other countries in terms of maternal mortality. That was really surprising to me. But many other countries report fewer maternal deaths than America.
The statistics show that countries who do better than the U.S. include the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, France, Portugal, Estonia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Greece, Iceland, Denmark and many others. No one understands why the U.S. has higher mortality for new mothers, but it’s something that prompted me to do more research. I don’t have a specific answer to that statistic, however, as a pharmacist, I can offer you some health tips, especially if you’ve been taking oral contraceptive medications.
Today’s article is one that will help any woman get better prepared to carry her baby to full term and have a healthy child-birthing experience. Furthermore, if you’ve taken HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), it will help you too because those hormones are very similar to the hormones used in oral contraceptive pills/patches. So women of many ages will benefit from today’s information about restoring lost nutrients.
I’ll breeze through the obvious and well-documented risk factors that any obstetric physician has told an expectant mom. The negative risk factors include smoking, drinking alcohol, living with extreme stress/abuse, having imbalanced hormones and carrying excessive weight which causes estrogen and cortisol imbalances.
Your physician can give you more information on any of the above risk factors. Today, I’d like to talk in terms of nutrients and supplements that help you with pregnancy, especially prior to conception. You’ll hear a lot about folic acid, which is a B vitamin. It’s called B9 and it’s part of a whole family of Bs called B complex.
You’ll find B9 as “folic acid” in thousands of supplements, in fact, it is what you’ll find in 99% of today’s regular prenatal vitamins, even the prescription versions. Folic acid is sometimes ordered by prescription in higher doses than what you’d find in an over-the-counter prenatal vitamin.
Should you take Folic Acid or Folate? You’ve never wondered that, have you?
Folic acid is a man-made B vitamin that is always given to women by doctors. It’s suggested to reduce the risk of spinal cord issues such as spina bifida or other neural tube defects. The neural tube is the tissue that connects the brain and spinal cord and babies may develop severe problems in this area during the first month of gestation. That means you could be pregnant and not even know it when the neural tube is forming on your fetus. So before you even know it, this area of the baby’s spinal cord is in development, that’s why taking B9 is important prior to conception. If you have enough, baby has enough. But not all B9 supplements are the same! In fact, some brands are like total opposites!
So the recommendation is to take “folic acid” but I’m suggesting “folate.”
It’s a more biologically active form of the same nutrient called vitamin B9.
FYI, folic acid is not the same as methylfolate. Folic acid is made in a lab and it does not have the “methyl” group that methylfolate has. They’ll tell you it converts in your body, but by the time the folic acid converts to methylfolate, there’s nothing really left. What a waste of time and money in my opinion. See my graphic to fully grasp what I’m saying, you can see all the speed bumps and other nutrients you need to make that conversion. It’s truly difficult to get from point A (folic acid) to point B (methylfolate). By the way, that graphic is an excerpt from a beautiful “book on a keyring” that I created, which doctors (and actually, anybody!) love to refer to when trying to figure out what nutrients to restore. I’ve had acupuncturists, nurses, pharmacists, PAs and MDs all purchase this and rely on it. The green is the nutrient needed, the red is the drugs that interfere with the pathway. If you want to buy this for your reference library, or clinic, it’s available HERE.
There is a more biologically active form of B9 called “folate” or “methylfolate,” or sometimes abbreviated as “5-MTHF” and you can buy the body-ready form of that in high quality supplements. Those are higher quality forms that bind to the receptor site more efficiently. Folinic acid might be a good idea too. Talk to your doctor because I can’t advise, but any good OB/GYN will know what I’m talking about it. And FYI, it is not an obscure finding, it is just one that gets a lot of resistance because “folic acid” is really cheap to make so it’s in everything. But cheap isn’t ideal when it comes to your baby’s health.
I’m telling you this little known fact because if you’re going to take vitamin B9 like your OB/GYN suggests, and it’s a good suggestion, you should take a biologically active form that actually does the intended job! So look for a prenatal that contains “methylfolate” or “folate” in its ingredient list. Those are the superior, methyl-promoting forms of “folic acid.”
Also, please read why “methyl” groups are so important to METHYLATION in some of my other articles. Here’s one of them that talks about popular over-the-counter analgesics and methylation — read that by CLICKING HERE.
We know that EPA based (regular, normal) types of fish oils are converted in the body to DHA which has positive benefit for adult brains. It specifically supports attention and clarity.* DHA is a well-known supplement for eye moisture retention.* And as it pertains to women’s health, taking DHA prior to conception, or during pregnancy is imperative for your baby’s eyes and brain. Few supplements could be better than DHA in my opinion. There are many, well-designed studies proving the benefits of DHA for proper fetal development. The healthy compounds from this special fish oil transfer from mother to baby via placenta, during breast-feeding and can also be given supplementally to a toddler.
DHA provides nutrition for our retina so it is critical for eyesight. DHA is also needed for proper mental and motor skill development. It can help with allergies and even attention span.
Folate and DHA are two supplements that I urge you to consider if you are planning to become pregnant any time soon. If you have been on “The Pill” for more than a year, then you may want to consider a few other important nutrients. Oral contraceptives are known to cause nutrient depletions in the human body, and this means that you have been taking a “drug mugger’ and you need to restore the missing nutrients before attempting to carry a baby to term and be healthy yourself. The book “Drug Muggers” is available on Amazon and even though I published it in 2011, the information is still relevant and hasn’t changed because the medications haven’t changed. This book covers ALL medications that impact your nutrient levels. There’s an e-book written by one of my dear friends, Dr. Ross Pelton that is specific to oral contraceptives. It’s available HERE and called The Pill Problem: How to Protect Your Health from the Side Effects of Oral Contraceptives.
The research is very clear on this and shows that certain nutrients are suppressed during and right after taking The Pill. For example, vitamin B9 (folate) is one, which I’ve discussed already. We also know that there are suppressed levels of other B vitamins such as vitamin B2 (riboflavin), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (methylcobalamin and/or adenosylcobalamin), vitamin C and others. We also know that levels of minerals drop and you will need to restore those as well. With The Pill, levels of magnesium, selenium, and zinc are often suppressed intracellularly. Your blood levels might be elevated, but your cells could be starving. There are tests to determine that of course. And finally, there are studies that suggest that levels of vitamin D diminish by as much as 20% after discontinuing oral contraception.
This becomes critical because when you’re pregnant your blood volume increases by 50% and you want that blood to be as rich in nutrients and oxygen as possible. If you’re deficient in valuable, life-promoting nutrients, you and your developing baby, and all of your organs aren’t fed as well as they could be. Oxygen and nutrients from your blood cross over to the fetus via the umbilical cord (placenta) and go to your baby’s liver where more filtration occurs. In essence, the health of your blood and your nutritional status is precisely what your baby relies on to grow and develop normally. If you’ve been on The Pill, you’re likely deficient in a lot of things (due to drug nutrient depletions) and replenishing the missing or suppressed nutrients is the best thing you can do prior to conceiving your baby.
So if you’ve been on The Pill, please consider eating a very good diet that is rich in B vitamins and minerals. Consider trace minerals, or a high-quality B Complex that contains “folate” not folic acid…and other Mito-loving B vitamins. Also consider other supplements that fill your nutritional gap such as a green superfood drink. Make sure it’s free of goitrogens though!
Consider more time. In other words, wait 6 to 9 months after stopping The Pill to conceive so that your body can get back to it’s normal hormonal balance and you can take the right supplements and start eating for your baby.
Consider supplementation for a period of time before conceiving because all of these nutrients (and others that I’ve not mentioned here) play critical roles in fertility and normal thyroid hormone synthesis. This is a good time to remind you that low thyroid hormone (which often occurs from long term use of The Pill) will cause hypothyroidism, and that can be a hidden cause of infertility. The Pill mugs nutrients that you need to make thyroid hormone, that’s why it occurs in so many women. By the same token, long term use of oral contraceptives (OC) may increase risk for hypertension, heart attack, chronic fatigue, certain cancers, fluid retention, weight gain and blood clots. These medical conditions may or may not be mitigated by the nutrient restoration post OC use, however, it’s fair to say that having adequate healthy levels of nutrients absolutely contributes to a person’s general health. The key s high-quality, bioavailable nutrients, not synthetic ones which seemingly add to the body’s toxic burden.
Some of the nutrients are manufactured in your body like B12, so eating healthy is important. Others are not made in the body like vitamin C. You have to take that in by eating right or supplementing. And finally, during this pandemic year, it seems like a good idea to mention immune function. Both mother and baby need to have the best support for immune function and that would include vitamin D as well as probiotics. Your gastrointestinal microflora is critical to your own health, and your child’s developing immune function. A STUDY in the British Medical Journal found that women who took probiotics during their pregnancy had a lower risk of pre-eclampsia and premature birth. Talk to your doctor about this and please remember what I said about the folic acid versus the folate. Do not be misled or confused by out-dated information regarding folic acid. You might very well be told that I’m crazy, and that’s okay, I’m used to that. But it’s not true, and your baby’s health is at stake. There is no comparison whatsoever between folic acid and folate. Both can occupy the receptor site, but only one has the power to methylate and protect the developing strands of DNA that form your precious child.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.