I’m a big believer in approaching everything we do in the low tox life with a curious, self-educating, can-do attitude – but I’m also a big believer in science – especially the proven kind (unlike the “saturated fat is bad” kind!).
The two types of clinical testing that I mention below are not often spoken about in the “so we’re thinking of having a baby” doctor chat and perhaps you didn’t even think they were relevant to fertility. But know this… they absolutely are. If you have been struggling with any health issues (not just having baby-making difficulties) then these two tests may shed some light on what’s going on for you and help you feel better. If you can get these tests done early into your fertility journey, you can often save yourself any potential stress and confusion.
If you’re after the full list of tests for fertility then jump over to our Preconception Ninja Course as we go in-depth with practitioners about the various tests that might be worth exploring.
MTHFR gene testing
For me, this one is a no-brainer. If you have an “MTHFR mutation” this means you have a gene which affects how much active folate you can synthesise and make available for absorption. Folate is essential for growth and development of cells and reduces the risk of neural tube defects in newborn babies. If you have the gene mutation then the pathways required for adequate folate absorption and distribution may not be functioning as well as they could.
The thing that blows my mind is that MTHFR gene testing is generally only considered after a woman has experienced several miscarriages! That is a frightening number and one which I would do anything to help you avoid. I go into this in depth on my podcast and share my personal experience as someone who joins a sizeable part of the population as being homozygous C667. My folate levels were “off the charts” in my blood, though rather than low. Why? It was recycling and not getting synthesised and USED – not ideal for going into pregnancy with some of the defects being a hole in the heart and single umbilical artery – we had both, thankfully neither is a major issue thanks to my instinctive spinach addiction throughout pregnancy. The little hole closed up all on its own in the first couple of weeks of the little guy’s life. I seriously encourage you to get an integrative doctor or naturopath to test for it, or even do it yourself with a home testing kit. It’s affordable from just $50AUD and super worthwhile knowing your status. It could potentially save you a world of heartache and confusion over why perhaps you’re experiencing miscarriages or just can’t fall pregnant.
Full Thyroid Analysis
The thyroid is a gland located in the front of our necks. Its function in the body is to regulate various essential hormonal and metabolic processes. Thyroid dysfunction due to endocrine disruption, stress, poor diet and various other factors can be a huge risk factor for infertility in women.
There are various ways you can be tricked up by either an overactive or underactive thyroid. For example, raised levels of TRH (thyroid releasing hormone) and decreased levels of T4 may result in excess prolactin and TSH both of which, when elevated, are directly linked to anovulation and/or infertility.
Our thyroids also modulate the body’s basal metabolic rate, meaning if the body is not capable of maintaining an optimal, stable temperature there may be no opportunity for it to fertilise an egg successfully. When it comes to hormones, oestrogen and thyroid hormones are known antagonists. So oestrogen dominance can suppress your thyroid function. Our bodies don’t make it easy, do they?!
Anyhoo, when it comes to getting diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction it can be a little tricky but there are ways around it. Some GP’s will only test for thyroid if there is a family history of it. What’s more – they tend to only test the thyroid on a very basic scale – so just TSH levels. My advice is to try and get to an integrative doctor for this one and make sure your doctor tests thoroughly! Just testing TSH will NOT give you a clear picture of your thyroid status as you can have a high T3 and a low T4 and a high T3 as I’ve had in the past, which shows that instead of converting it to active T3, my body was storing it to the reverse T3 and that needed to be addressed. Again, it’s all in the thoroughness of the testing to pick this sort of thing up.
Thyroid testing explained:
The reason we consider these tests (below) is that while they may not indicate fertility per se, they will reveal any metabolic and/or hormonal issues in the body which are hindering your chance to fall pregnant. So the message here is to focus on correcting your thyroid and bringing levels back to where they need in order to support your chances of falling pregnant.
- Thyroid releasing hormone (TRH) – a hormone responsible for regulating the release of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and prolactin.
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) – TSH tells the thyroid gland how much T4 and T3 to produce. If your TSH levels are abnormally elevated, it could indicate you have an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism.
- Free thyroxine (free T4) – elevated free T4 may indicate an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), and low free T4 results may indicate an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
- Total or free triiodothyronine (total or free T3) – Free T3 is used to help diagnose hyperthyroidism.
- Reverse T3 – Elevated reverse T3 has a powerful effect on slowing metabolism and can indicate hypothyroidism.
- Checking for antibodies levels – which will help you rule out autoimmune issues.
An integrative doctor or naturopath will also be able to draw conclusions from these comprehensive results and treat you holistically with diet, stress management, improved liver function, endocrine support and nervous system modulation in order to get your thyroid back to where you need it.
So, I hope that opens your eyes to a couple of important tests that perhaps you never realised you needed to assist in fertility and the lead up to conception (or as I like to say the horizontal tango!). If the timing is right for you, then I’d love to invite you over to our Preconception Ninja Course. We cover several other tests and I chat with two amazing practitioners where we go through all the tests and why they’re useful – which can literally change the game for some couples on your fertility journey. It’s such a wonderful body of information and resources to help increase your chances of a healthy conception, pregnancy, and bub.
I’d also love to know: Have you had any experiences with thyroid and/or MTHFR issues and how did you overcome them?
Real Food. Happy Bodies. Happy Planet.