During pregnancy, women need vital vitamins and minerals for themselves and their unborn child. Among those vitamins is folic acid, a B vitamin that helps the body create healthy new cells. Without the proper ability to convert folic acid into a basic and usable substance for the body, complications like spina bifida, when the baby’s spinal column does not close to protect the spinal cord resulting in limited use of the legs; anencephaly, when the baby’s brain does not develop, or even miscarriages can occur.
Recently, it has been found that some women are more susceptible to these complications due to a genetic mutation called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) polymorphism, limits the body’s ability to convert synthetic folic acid into the active form of folate, known as L-methylfolate into an active form the body can use. Latinas are more likely than non-Latinas to have this genetic mutation. It is estimated that up to 70 percent of Latinas are not able to fully metabolize folic acid found in fortified foods, resulting in the body’s limited ability to absorb its benefits. There is a lack of awareness of this issue, particularly with women in Hispanic communities who are most significantly by this inherited condition.
Theresa E. Chevalier, a nurse practitioner and co-founder of the Nevada Obstetrical Charity Clinic, said that this mutation, which is an inherited condition, may be stemming from Latinas’ diets and lack of intake back to the ‘80s. Most amounts of folic acid are found in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans and whole grains, states the WomensHealth.gov website.
“Most Latinas don’t have greens in their diet,” Chevalier said. She also stated that she sees at least one woman every day in their offices with MTHFR. To be sure of this mutation, there is a non-invasive test performed on the woman.
One symptom of having MTHFR is miscarriages. Chevalier explained that four women who had had a history of at least three miscarriages were tested and found to have MTHFR. After taking a specific type of folic which was able to be used and absorbed by the body, all four women were able to have full-term deliveries without complications.
For more information about MTHFR visit LearnAboutMTHFR.com in English or AprendaSobreMTHFR.com