trying to conceive

Folate v. Folic Acid While Trying to Conceive

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So you’re trying for your miracle baby and it’s been a few months…or years.

You’ve decided it’s time to boost up your supplements and folic acid is high on the list. Everyone knows that folic acid is the key to a healthy pregnancy… or is it?

Folate can be found naturally in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards as well as broccoli, lentils and other foods.

In honor of January’s National Folic Acid Awareness Week, this short article is all about the differences between folate and folic acid. More specifically, we will cover how these differences affect your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term.

First of all, folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Folate refers to the natural form of multiple water soluble B vitamins, as well as B9 itself. Folic acid, however, is a synthesized version created in the 1940’s which became a common ingredient in “fortified foods” in the late ‘90s.

Folate is indeed critical for pre-conception and prenatal care. Folate deficiencies can cause:

1. Anemia
2. Neural tube defects which affect the brain and spine in early pregnancy (the most common result is spina bifida)
3. Increased risks for cancers and other diseases

I’m just trying to take a prenatal that won’t make me constipated! Why is this so complicated?!

I’m just trying to take a prenatal that won’t make me constipated! Why is this so complicated?!

Okay, so folate is really important. But what’s the big deal about the synthetic version? Is it really that bad?

The problem with standard, unmethylated folic acid is that unlike it’s natural counterpart, it taxes the liver to be broken down. The liver cannot keep up with the amount of folic acid we consume, nor is it fully equipped to process it. Folate was traditionally broken down in the small intestines, so the liver does not have the same power to keep up with the high amounts we are consuming. As a result, we have excess folic acid.

Excess folic acid increases chances of cancer (especially colon and prostate) and it masks b12 deficiency. Most importantly for couples trying to conceive, it can increase chances of miscarriage for some couples.

People with the mutated MTHFR gene ( with some sources finding up to 40% of the population have the mutation) are at the greatest risk of folic acid usage. Folic acid usage with couples (either partner) with the gene increases chances of miscarriage and fertility problems, among other issues.

The saddest part about this problem is that folic acid is in everything. In an effort to prevent birth defects, synthesized folic acid is required in cereals and grain foods. It’s also routinely used in even high quality prenatals and preconception vitamins. So what can you do?

Research, research, research! Be sure that when choosing a fertility enhancing supplement or prenatal that the folate is sourced from whole foods and not synthesized. When looking for a vitamins, remember that “folate” is used interchangeably with folic acid on bottles. Be sure to check the label to see which form they have included.

Find a vitamin that uses folate (derived from foods like the ones listed below) or a methylated version.

Folate can be found naturally in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards as well as broccoli, lentils and other foods. These should make up a huge part of your pre-conception care diet!

If you need more help figuring out the right supplementation or need a whole built-for-you fertility plan to take you from trying to conceive to pregnant, set up a consultation. Our fertility coach can help you find the right supplements and guide you through our 12 week process of getting pregnant faster. If you’re in the New Orleans/Kenner area: you’re in luck! We’re having another 12-week group workshop series starting April 1. You can get more information here.

Love, light and baby dust

The Pre-Baby Blues: Is Trying to Conceive Making you Depressed?

Trying to conceive without positive results is an emotional roller coaster. For some, it can even lead to mental health issues. In the following interview with therapist Janine Canaday, LPC, LCPC, of Living Wellness, LLC, we will investigate how trying to conceive affects mental health and what you can do if you need extra support.

Is it normal to feel depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, hopeless if getting pregnant takes longer than expected?

Yes, feelings of sadness, anxiety, and anger to name a few are natural to experience and express. These feelings are usually indicators that a situation or experience that we are having requires additional attention to process and work through. For many women, motherhood is a valued and important part of life that is often sought after. When what we value most in life is not present or is difficult to obtain, it is normal to a degree to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, fear and overwhelm.

The CDC reports that about 12% of women aged 15-44 experience challenges with fertility as well as 35% of couples where both men and women play a role in the challenges of conceiving. The messaging that we get from society, social images and the media can sometimes convey that conceiving a baby is easy and can happen quickly. In reality, it is a very intricate process that requires precise factors to be present. It is not as easy as it looks! Through many attempts, doctor visits, tests and procedures, the whole experience of trying to conceive can be emotionally, mentally and physically draining. It can be very devastating to experience and take an emotional toll on the relationship.

How can you tell if you are depressed or just going through a rough time?

Those who experience symptoms of depression will often show some of the following signs: fatigue, loss of interest, loss of appetite, isolation, extreme sadness, poor concentration, fearfulness, lack of energy, irritability, changes in weight, headaches, difficulty sleeping, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness and hopelessness. When these symptoms impact one’s daily routine in a significant way and have been preset for at least 2 weeks or longer, then it may be time to consider professional support.

If you find that managing day to day responsibilities around the house, at work or school and with your family are becoming too overwhelming and unbearable, then it may be more than just a rough period of time. Also, if you are frequently feeling unmotivated, it is becoming too difficult to get out of bed and engaging in daily grooming seems daunting, then please pay attention to these signs. It is important to communicate with trusted individuals whom you find to be supportive about what you are feeling. In addition, it is equally as important to do a regular self-check of your emotions by paying attention to your thoughts, bodily sensations and responses to triggering or stressful situations. This level of self-awareness is vital to knowing when it is time to seek support in order to treat your symptoms early with effective interventions.

How can you find purpose when the one thing you want so desperately, to be a mother, you can't seem to attain?

What is so amazing about life is that even on our hardest days and in our darkest hours there is hope, healing and purpose. Each woman who experiences the challenges of infertility has a unique story. A story of trials, pain, triumph and joy with many chapters and edited revisions that has led her down a journey she least expected. Power and purpose can be found in the journey. It can be very easy and even natural to focus on the pain, the heart break of infertility and the uncertainty of what life may bring next. Allow yourself to feel the full variety of emotions that come to you, but choose to not live in that space. Acknowledge that what you are experiencing is very difficult, yet know it does not have to be the end of your story or what defines you as a woman. You have the power and control to write and create more chapters of healing and victory. Refrain from self-comparison because it discredits your unique story that only you can tell. No one else has experienced what you have been through the way you did. Your desire and purpose for motherhood may show up for you in ways that you may not have possibly anticipated, dreamed of or imagined.  Stay encouraged!

What can couples who are feeling distant or fighting, arguing, ignoring, or blowing up about treatment plans and the stresses of getting pregnant do to enhance their relationship?

Going through the challenging journey of infertility can be very stressful for both people. It can be an emotional roller coaster that can cause strain in the relationship if left unchecked. What is most important for couples to do is to engage in effective communication and set/maintain healthy boundaries. Make a decision to speak to each other instead of at each other. Share your feelings, listen with the intent to understand each other and reflect back on what you heard your partner say to show empathy and support. It is important that each partner feels heard. Discuss one issue at a time, take turns talking and express your feelings using “I” statements to show responsibility for your emotions. Keep in mind that constant fighting, arguing and ignoring each other is ineffective, invalidating and minimizes your partners’ feelings.

You are a team. It is vital to work together as a united front. I will often have couples who are experiencing challenges within their relationship complete worksheets that help them remember why they fell in love in the first place and why they decided to do this journey called life together. Take a moment to engage in quality time asking each other “discovery” questions about your hopes, dreams, desires and goals for your family. Reminisce on past shared experiences that were happy and joyful. Look through photo albums, make a collage or a vision board together to bring the passion and laughter back within your relationship. Start dating each other all over again!  

How important is self-care for mental health while struggling with illness/reproductive challenges? When is it time to seek mental health help?

Frequent self-care is paramount in managing a healthy balance of what life has to offer. Stress that is improperly managed can have an impact on your health and body. Prolonged and chronic stress can negatively impact your cardiovascular system, endocrine system, nervous system and reproductive system to name a few. It is important to stay informed and gain information from your doctors and specialists about what specifically happens within your body during periods of chronic stress as it relates to fertility.

Self-care may include joining a support group of other women experiencing similar challenges, journaling or writing about your feelings and your journey, spending time with loved ones, doing enjoyable things and engaging in relaxation techniques. Practicing deep breathing, mindfulness skills (being present in the moment), yoga or exercise and healthy eating are excellent ways to bring your mind and body back to a state of homeostasis and calm. Positive self-affirmation statements are also very important in keeping your thoughts focused on what is helpful and productive. Some of my clients have reported that using aroma therapy and Himalayan salt lamps are effective at reducing stress. Set aside at least 15-30 minutes each day to engage in self-care. It is a necessary part of your overall quality of life and health.

If you are finding it too difficult to engage in self-care, are experiencing a lack in motivation and are feeling hopeless and helpless about your situation. Please seek support from a trusted professional.

Wrapping up

It’s normal to feel anxious when it comes to trying to conceive. Finding the right coping tools can make all the difference. If you don’t have a plan for getting pregnant, start by talking to a professional. Knowing what your best options to take back control of your fertility will help you feel less overwhelmed. If you or a loved one suspects you are depressed, contact a therapist like Janine. You don’t have to do this alone.

About Janine

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I am licensed in both Virginia and Maryland. My office is located at 2663 Osborne Rd. Suite 7, Chester, VA. 23831. Virtual counseling is available for those who prefer this option and for those who live in Maryland. For additional information about me and my practice, please visit my website at www.iamlivingwellness.com or my profile on the Psychology Today website. I can be reached at 443.272.1429.  For more encouragement and support please follow Living Wellness, LLC on Facebook and Instagram. I wish you well!