Why is Methylfolate Beneficial for Fertility?
If you have a history of recurrent miscarriage or failed IVF cycles, there is a good chance that a genetic variant in the MTHFR gene is one contributing factor. The MTHFR gene encodes an enzyme that converts other forms of folate to the biologically active methylfolate. If you have one of several common variants in this gene, you may not be able to efficiently convert folate from food or supplements into methylfolate, creating a deficiency in this important vitamin.
Researchers have known for many years that MTHFR mutations are a common culprit in women with recurrent miscarriage. A study published in May 2016 also found that MTHFR mutations are much more common in women with failed IVF cycles and chromosomally abnormal embryos. (To find out whether you have one or more variants, your Doctor can order an MTHFR blood test or you can order DNA analysis yourself through 23andme and have the data analyzed through the free website Genetic Genie.)
How Do MTHFR Mutations Contribute to Infertility and Miscarriage?
Folate plays an essential role in the production of DNA and in detoxification. Both functions are absolutely critical to early embryo formation. If you have a genetic variant that compromises your ability to produce methyl-folate when needed, toxins such as homocysteine can accumulate. High homocysteine and low folate appears to increase the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in embryos. These abnormalities are the primary cause of early miscarriage and failed IVF cycles (read more on miscarriage and chromosomal abnormalities here). High homocysteine may also contribute to miscarriages by raising the risk of blood clots, although this is more controversial and some studies have found no effect.
To solve these problems, the first step is to supplement with more folate, in order to support DNA production and the detoxification of homocysteine.
See my top recommendations for prenatals containing methylfolate