When I was a kid, I was full of questions. My favourite thing to do was to ask, “Why?” When I was about five, I remember being in a shopping centre with my parents and sisters, the eldest of whom was pushing my niece in a pram. We had been riding the escalators all day and I kept seeing these big read buttons at the top of every escalator. I asked what they did but, given we were in a hurry, I was told not to worry about what they did because it was not important.
It was important to me though so at the top of the next escalator, when my sister was halfway down with the pram, I pushed the button.
The escalator immediately stopped, almost throwing its occupants off in the process. Dad then had to help my sister carry the pram down the remainder of the now-frozen escalator. Everyone was pretty mad at me.
I didn’t get it. Why were they angry when all I wanted to know was the answer to a simple question?
Of course, the button was an emergency stop button but I didn’t realise that at the time and I wasn’t satisfied with being told that I didn’t need to know the answer to my question. I needed to know.
I know my questioning nature drove my parents insane at times but, unfortunately for them, it is something that has stuck with me. For the most part, this has served me well but sometimes it causes me to create more pain for myself than is necessary.
In the case of wanting to know why I miscarried earlier this year, I nearly drove myself insane trying to figure out what caused it and how I could have avoided it or, at the very least, how I could ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
The doctors, nurses and midwives all said the same thing: sometimes we just don’t have an answer. I couldn’t accept that I would never know what caused our baby to die so suddenly just days after seeing their heart beating strongly, but it looked like that was exactly what was going to happen.
That was until last week when I went to my GP to get an iron test done. Those who know me well will be familiar with my struggles to keep my iron at a healthy level. Anyway, he was going through my history and saw that I never received the results of a test I requested when I was pregnant to find out if I had a mutation or defect of the Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase gene. The MTHFR gene for those who prefer to not overcomplicate things. Or the Mother F*cker gene, for those in the natural medicine field who know the havoc that mutations to this gene can cause.
What does the MTHFR gene do, exactly?
The body can’t do too much with folate in its original form, so it needs to convert (or methylate) it into a substance that it can actually use, and that substance is called L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate. The MTHFR gene is responsible for this conversion.
The MTHFR gene can be defective in a couple of different ways, with one mutation being known to increase the risk of blood clots, especially during pregnancy.
For people with this type of mutation (the heterozygous version, for those who are interested), miscarriages are common. It is thought that a blood clot forms in the placental blood vessel, causing the baby to be cut off from nutrients and subsequently causing you to miscarry.
This is the mutation that I have.
I think this is why our baby died.
Of course, I know all too well that there are no guarantees in this life, and there is every chance that something else caused the miscarriage. But there is something strangely comforting in thinking that I might have found an answer, even though I’ll never know if it is the answer. It gives me the opportunity I’ve been searching for to see what I can do to try to stop this from happening again. It gives me a direction to start with rather than flailing around in the dark, hoping I’m taking the right supplements and getting the best treatment. As anyone who is dealing with fertility issues – or any health issue for that matter – will tell you, having some information is better than having none.
The science is pretty new around all of this, which means there aren’t many prenatal supplements that include L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate, or even its precursor – folinic acid. My doctor isn’t even sure about what the best approach is!
After trawling my university’s scientific research database to read about the few studies that have been conducted in this area, it looks like the best thing I can do is take a supplement that includes L-5-methylfolate. I’ve found one that looks pretty good, so I’m going to give it a shot when we do decide it’s the right time to start trying again.
So instead of doing nothing and just hoping for the best, I’m trawling my uni’s scientific research database to find answers and I’m determined to get to the bottom of this.
I’ll never stop asking why.
Note: As always, I’m writing about my own experience. I’m not a doctor and while this post might give you the information you need to start your own investigations with a health practitioner, it should not be construed as medical advice.