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heavy metal detox and pregnancyOne of the things women ask me who are looking to get pregnant is about heavy metal detoxification, aka chelation. Heavy metals are not necessarily a great thing to have in abundance for women carrying a baby for 40 weeks, and yet there are times when stirring the pot can actually be worse. Here are my thoughts on it.

I do believe that women who are looking to get pregnant can benefit by getting heavy metals out of their system. Such metals can be really toxic – metals like lead, mercury and aluminum. Metals can accumulate in the system from a variety of sources including amalgam fillings, vaccines, old lead pipes and paint, too much seafood in the diet, and so on.

Here’s my big caveat. If you are actively trying to conceive, or are planning to try in the next three months, then it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie. If trying to conceive is 6-12 months away then you have more options.  In other words, if conception is imminent then having metals stirred up and circulating around the system can be more toxic – they can cross into the placenta and potentially put stress on the neurological development of the fetus.  In fact, toxic metals concentrate seven times across the placenta, so an average level for you might be even more damaging for your developing baby.

If you are thinking about a baby a year or so down the road and are conscious of toxic metals, there is time to get tested and take action.  The test I like the most is a provoked urine test.  During that test, you take a dose of a “chelator” and collect urine for six hours afterwards.  The chelator stirs up the metals, gets them out of the tissues and into the blood stream where the kidneys can filter them and they dump in the urine.  Hence that test measures the load that is provoked by that dose of the chelator.  To be fair, it’s not a perfect science and it doesn’t reflect exactly what is left in the body, but I’ve run hundreds of these and I know it to be a pretty good predictor.  It is also a good tracking system for treatment, as the more chelation we do the lower the level on the urine test, even with the same provocation.

If levels come back high, oral DMSA is a great chelator of mercury, while EDTA is a better binder of lead.  Chlorella is a good mop up for any toxic metals, and can be done even within that 3 month pregnancy window.  I once had a patient who had a mercury exposure during pregnancy, and we used chlorella to help reduce the toxicity of the acute exposure.

As with anything, these are guidelines and it’s good to seek the advice of your integrative doctor/ OBGYN/ midwife prior to taking any action.  However, I do know that toxic metals are a big issue in preconception health care and if there is time, are a good thing to address!!