Updated: Jan 9
This month is full of women's health observances - well, most months are, considering we only have twelve. The observance I thought best to discuss first is 'National Birth Defects Prevention Month'. Obviously preventing birth defects are important for women who are actively trying to conceive, but for those who are not - this is why you should care too!
According to the CDC, birth defects are structural changes that appear at birth that can affect any part of the body. They can be found while in utero, at birth or anytime thereafter. A birth defect is diagnosed every 4 1/2 minutes in the US and most birth defects occur within the first 3 months of pregnancy.
If you are just closing your mouth from the gaping 'AHHH' you just experienced learning how frequently birth defects actually occur - you aren't the only one. But, I want you to really hone in on second part of that sentence - let's dig into the significance of the first 3 months (trimester)?
The first trimester is all about rapidly dividing cells and more importantly, the influence that internal and external exposures have on them. This can be somewhat likened to any point in any woman's life - we are perpetually healing, repairing and discharging old, warn out cells for fresh new ones. Of course when a whole new human is forming within us, the rate of cell division is rapid fire - and any error or misstep could be devastating (i.e. birth defect), but in the general aspects of living - small missteps could - overtime - create dysfunction in the body, that while short of a birth defect - could lead to common hormone dysfunctions
Some internal exposures that can influence the acuity and precision of cell division and replication include hormones, nutrient status, the burden of our detox systems. External exposures, including chemicals from our environment and other like stressors are highly influential over our internal space.
We can actually do more than we think about our external exposures and their effects on cell division, replication, birth defects and "lesser, yet more cumulative hormone dysfunctions". We can significantly limit them and the influence they have over our internal space (given we know what they are, where to find them, and how to rid them from our bodies).
Methylation deficiencies and endocrine disrupters are internal and external exposures associated with DNA (our cellular blueprint) changes that women of ALL ages and stages can think about as they set New Year intentions toward better health.
In brief, methylation is the addition of small molecules (-CH3) to aspects of the DNA, which cause structural and functional changes to the DNA and the actions that correspond to those 'altered instructions/blueprint'.
Methylation processes take place abundantly within the first 10 days of life. To simplify this very complex chain of events, the individuality of the DNA within mother's egg and the DNA within the father's sperm has to be 'deconstructed' to be 'reconstructed' to produce a human that is partly both parents. This continues in various stages and degrees throughout the development of the fetus as different body parts and organ systems are developed out of what once was a blob of identical cells. Methylation also instructs our adult DNA to turn on and off tumor promotor sites, important to the promotion and alternatively, the prevention of cancers of all types.
Methylation is a nutrient-driven process, but can be influenced not just by key nutrient intake (including folate, B12 and choline intake), but also nutrient status - i.e. your genetics, social habits, medication history and even digestion capacity.
Endocrine disruptors are hormone-like chemicals in our environment that create unhealthy imbalances in our hormones, and the way those hormones (namely estrogen) affect growth and other metabolic processes. Endocrine disruptors are all around us. They can be found in our dishware, receipts, lotions, perfumes, laundry detergents, hair care products.
Endocrine disruptors are known to interfere in the genetic coding and hormone-facilitated changes taking place during a fetus' development. You can imagine how this might lead to birth defects in general, but even more specifically in male children, how an estrogen-overload may interfere with necessary, testosterone-driven gender-distinctions. Believe it or not, they are also implicated in infertility and recurrent miscarriage.
Outside of conception and pregnancy, women are also significantly burdened by the role of endocrine disruptors in hormone and metabolic dysfunctions of all types, from PMS, fibroids, endometriosis, resistant weight, extreme menopausal symptoms to increased incidence of cancers, particularly breast cancer.
I hope this post has helped you see the how women pursuing healthy fertility and reproduction and those outside of that window - pursuing other aspects of this lovely experience we call life - have converging indications for a more holistic approach to their hormone health.
Reach out to Dr. Shavon, to learn how she can help you in your women's wellness and healthy, holistic fertility pursuits.
Thanks for spending some time with me! 😀