Q) My dentist is treating me for gingivitis [inflammation of the gums]. Is there a supplement I can take to help?
A) Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease. If left untreated it can lead to receding gums and, possibly, loss of teeth. Symptoms include red and swollen gums, which bleed after flossing or brushing teeth. Ubiquinol, a form of antioxidant coenzyme Q10, has been shown to markedly improve gum health, used with routine therapies. Pharmacist Shabir Daya recommends a daily
100mg dose of Super Ubiquinol CoEnzyme Q10, £42 for 60 softgels.
Why Folic Acid Is Essential
When Emma Voysey, 24, discovered she was five weeks pregnant last October, it was totally unexpected. ‘My partner Mark Herrod and I were shocked – but very happy.’ Emma carried on working as a dairy farm assessor, riding her horse and helping Mark on their Devon farm. At that stage, she had never heard about the importance of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy to help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
The 12-week ultrasound scan (when the foetus is fully formed) seemed fine but everything changed when Emma and Mark went for the routine 20-week scan. ‘The operator told us she had “high concerns” about our baby: something wasn’t right with her spine and she had a lot of fluid on her brain.’ A second operator confirmed that the baby girl, who Emma and Mark named Poppy, had spina bifida.
The consultant at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital recommended they have a further scan at Bristol’s specialist Fetal Medicine Unit, before making a decision about terminating the pregnancy. Meanwhile, Emma had contacted the charity Shine, which specialises in spina bifida: ‘A volunteer spent an hour on the phone explaining the diagnosis.’
Spina bifida means ‘split spine’. The spinal cord, which carries messages from the brain to different parts of the body, does not form properly between the 14th and 23rd days after conception. In the most serious type (myelomeningocele), there is always some paralysis and loss of sensation below the damaged region so bladder, bowels and legs may be compromised. Most babies born with this type also have hydrocephalus (water on the brain), causing swelling and brain damage.
‘The three days before we went to Bristol we lived on hope,’ remembers Emma. ‘We thought we could give Poppy a happy life if her brain was not affected. But the scan at Bristol revealed it was very severe. Poppy would need surgery as soon as she was born, and a minimum of 30 to 40 operations to survive. She would always be in a wheelchair and her quality of life would be very low.’
Their hope drained away. ‘We were heartbroken but we agreed the kindest thing for Poppy would be to terminate the pregnancy.’ That took place the following week at the Royal Devon and
Exeter hospital (visit rdehospital.nhs.uk for patient information on medical termination of pregnancy). Specially trained midwives (Christine Laws and Nikki Patterson) looked after Emma
and Mark until Poppy was born.
‘The midwives were wonderful – they made everything feel so normal. They put Poppy in a hand-knitted dress with a rose on the front and we held her in our arms.’ The following day Poppy was buried in a wood on their farm, where they go most days.
Emma and Mark want every woman who might get pregnant to know they should take folic acid daily to help prevent neural tube defects. They are fundraising for Shine, and for more midwives at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital to train to help patients with terminations. ‘We are getting stronger all the time. Our families and friends have been amazing but you feel so isolated at first. Then we realised how many others lose babies for different reasons. We want them to be helped as we were.’
- Shine, for spina bifida and hydrocephalus: shinecharity.org.uk, 01733 555988
- Go Folic, started by Shine to raise awareness about folic acid – ‘before you frolic, go folic’: gofolic.org.uk
- Sands, stillbirth and neonatal death charity: uk-sands.org, 020 7436 5881, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Miscarriage Association, for miscarriage, ectopic and molar pregnancies: miscarriageassociation.org.uk, 01924 200799, email: email@example.com