PC and Pregnancy...Perfect Together

PC isn’t exclusively a pregnancy supplement, but can contribute greatly to healthy fetal development*.

Key Takeaways:
  • A sperm, the most miniscule cell in the body, when merged with the ovum creates a zygote - a small but mighty organism that eventually becomes a functioning human with a mind of its own.
  • Over the course of up to 39 weeks, this zygote forms within the womb of the mother, developing an array of physical traits and growth.
  • These developmental weeks while the baby is still in the womb are incredibly important, and equally important are the dietary practices of the mother during this time.
  • PC supplementation in mothers during pregnancy has been shown to help increase healthy lung development, as well as other areas of healthy fetal growth.
The smallest cell in the human body is a sperm only spanning the length of five microns. A micron - which is one millionth of a meter, one thousandth of a millimeter. A human hair is 15 times wider than a sperm is long. So, sperm are small. And quite a few genes are crammed into that little space. A sperm doesn’t contribute mitochondria to fertilization because they’re in the tail, which propels the sperm through the sea, but also falls off once it reaches its destination. Unfortunately, that puts the burden of mitochondrial disorders on the ovum, which happens to be about 40 or 50 times larger than a sperm and is one of the largest cells in the body. Once they merge, they form a zygote.  But what’s amazing is that this union occurs at all, given that sperm seem to move so randomly. Another astonishment is that this zygote, smaller than a straight pin perforation, turns into a walking, talking, gesticulating person, complete with a mind of its own. 

Healthy Fetal Development 

Once a pregnancy occurs, the embryo and, later, the fetus, need to be taken care of.  The environment of the womb needs attention, as well. This is where diet and lifestyle matter most.  A mom who smokes, drinks and / or uses illicit drugs will have nothing but headaches—and heartaches—to anticipate at birthing time and after.  And a mom with an inadequate diet might not be much better off. Let’s see what happens at conception: The egg is fertilized in about twenty-four hours after entry of a sperm.  Over the next few days, cells divide as the egg travels the fallopian tube on its way to the uterus, where it burrows into the lining.  At this point, the ball of cells is called a blastocyst and has begun to produce a hormone known as human chorionic gonadotropin (hGC), which tells the ovaries to stop releasing eggs.  Three weeks have passed. At week four, the blastocyst is officially an embryo and will show positive on a home pregnancy test - the baby is the size of a poppy seed. Week five has the semblance of a tadpole more than a human, but is growing quickly.  The circulatory system is forming, and a tiny heart will begin to beat. It’s a sesame seed at this time. Nose, mouth and ears begin to take shape at week six. Intestines and brain are developing. In a single week, the baby has doubled in size. Little hands and feet become visible and as nerve cells branch out at eight weeks, neural pathways are being formed.  At this point, mom will be glad she had taken a folate / folinic acid / MTHF supplement and phosphatidylcholine to ensure a perfect neural tube formation. Still at eight weeks, the baby develops breathing tubes and lungs. But a week later, the baby is the size of a grape, sporting earlobes - though no earrings. The most critical portion of development has completed at week 10, when details such as fingernails emerge.  Although not yet discernable, the baby is kicking and stretching, even hiccuping as the diaphragm forms.  Reflexes appear at 12 weeks: toes will curl, the mouth will make sucking motions. The baby is sufficiently sensate to feel your poking and probing as they're lime-size now.  Fingerprints at the first trimester, veins appear through the skin. If the baby is female, her ovaries hold over a million- and she/he’s only as big as a pea pod.  By now, a miscarriage is unlikely.  Morning sickness should be gone, and iIt’s a good time to look into a fitness routine and for a closer examination of what you’ve been eating.  Week 14 brings a host of neural impulses and maybe some thumb sucking. Lemon-size here, but apple-size at 15 weeks. An ultrasound will now be clear enough to reveal the gender.  Ears are moved into position at week 16 and scalp patterns appear, though hair has not. The skeleton hardens, from cartilage to bone, at the seventeenth week, where the cord is getting thicker and stronger.  Myelin forms during the eighteenth week to insulate nerves and the baby starts to flex her arms and legs, activity you can detect. If you feel like it, you can start to read, sing and talk to your baby because the senses are becoming established.  The baby’s a large tomato right now. Meconium, the first gooey bowel movement, forms at week 20, while the digestive system grows. By the twenty-second week, the baby is kicking and jabbing. Next week, she’ll look like a miniature newborn. The baby fat fills out the skin at week 25 and hair starts to emerge; next week she’ll inhale and exhale amniotic fluid, practicing for that first breath of air.  Brain activity is quite high at the end of the second trimester.  The baby has a sleep-wake cycle, too. With medical intervention, she could function outside the womb.  In the last trimester, the baby takes up a lot of real estate, waiting patiently for you to set up a baby registry and pick a physician or midwife.  Eyesight improves at week 28t; eyelashes have appeared. Her head is getting bigger to accommodate the growing brain at week 30. In the next several weeks, the baby will gain between a third and half of her birth weight. The cranium bones are not yet fused, affording them the chance to shift as she squeezes through the birth canal.  She’s getting ready for her debut. At week 34, parturition offers no challenges in the absence of a medical problem. Kidneys are fully developed at week 35 and the liver is ready to process waste. Vernix casosa, the waxy material that has protected the baby’s skin until now, falls away, leaving some residue in body creases at week 36.  The baby is adding fat and the brain and lungs are getting ready for the grand entrance at week 37. By week 39, the baby is full-term and ready to greet the world. 

Benefits of PC Supplementation in Pregnancy & Fetal Development

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Since lungs develop closer to delivery than not, lung surfactants are important.  These lipid-protein complexes stabilize the structure of alveoli by reducing surface tension at the air-liquid interface.  Errors in this system cause severe respiratory pathologies that may be assuaged or completely prevented by a surfactant material such as exogenous phosphatidylcholine (Janssen, 2006).   Phosphatidylcholine, commonly and more quickly referred to as PC, can facilitate healthy development of the lungs/lung surfactants as well as healthy fetal growth*. If birth weight is a sign of an infant’s health, then we may be certain that PC has the capacity to support the baby’s robust state (Lu, 2018).  Alterations in maternal or fetal metabolism have marked impact on fetal growth and birth outcomes. Low birth weight has been associated with increased susceptibility to hypertension later in life, for example.  There is an increased demand for PC by the fetus, especially during the third trimester. Whether endogenous or exogenous, much PC is transferred from the mother to the developing infant. It’s been demonstrated that pregnant women use more methyl groups to manufacture endogenous PC from P-ethanolamine than do non-pregnant women (Yan, 2013).  That being the case, supportive PC supplementation seems a reasonable practice.  Somewhat unnerving is that a paucity of maternal fatty acid intake bodes unfavorably for the infant, particularly in women who may experience type-2 diabetes.  Those who supplemented with high-quality fish oil showed higher levels of DHA in their blood, while interventional assessment of the infant did the same. Here, DHA values are associated with increased brain levels of PC and related membrane phosphatides by as much as fifty percent, laying the groundwork for synapse formation and cognitive brain development (Wurtman, 2008, 2009).   Not only the omega-3 DHA, but also the omega-6 linoleic acid (as from evening primrose oil, BodyBio Balance Oil or safflower oil) is positively associated with birth weight, body mass index, adipose tissue volume and postnatal length/height (Bernard, 2017). Maternal fatty acids are responsible for the child’s long-term health, too, not only in immediate growth and development, but also in appetite control, neuroendocrine function and energy metabolism, therein establishing parameters for what is termed metabolic programming (Kabaran, 2015).  Premature infants, especially, suffer from maternal EFA deficits, lending importance to the intake of n-3’s and n-6’s early in pregnancy…and even before (Arsic, 2012).  For years, essential fatty acids and phospholipids have been associated with health.  Starting with the fetus, they extend to cardiovascular and neurological well-being, and find their exalted position in the cell membrane, the too-often-overlooked entity that controls all aspects of body function.  The typical American diet excludes the nutrients that are vital to longevity for both mother and child, through birth and in life.. Intentional supplementation can fill in that missing part of this beautiful journey.
Arsić A, Vučić V, Prekajski N, Tepšić J, Ristić-Medić D, Veličković V, Glibetić M.  Different fatty acid composition of serum phospholipids of small and appropriate for gestational age preterm infants and of milk from their mothers.  Hippokratia. 2012 Jul;16(3):230-5.   Autilio C, Pérez-Gil J.  Understanding the principle biophysics concepts of pulmonary surfactant in health and disease.  Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2019 Jul;104(4):F443-F451.   Bernard JY, Tint MT, Aris IM, Chen LW, Quah PL, Tan KH, Yeo GS, Fortier MV, Yap F, et al.  Maternal plasma phosphatidylcholine polyunsaturated fatty acids during pregnancy and offspring growth and adiposity.  Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2017 Jun;121:21-29.   Bernhard W, Poets CF, Franz AR.  Choline and choline-related nutrients in regular and preterm infant growth.  Eur J Nutr. 2019 Apr;58(3):931-945.   Cheatham CL, Goldman BD, Fischer LM, da Costa KA, Reznick JS, Zeisel SH.  Phosphatidylcholine supplementation in pregnant women consuming moderate-choline diets does not enhance infant cognitive function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Dec;96(6):1465-72.   De Rooy L, Hamdallah H, Dyall SC.  Extremely preterm infants receiving standard care receive very low levels of arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids.  Clin Nutr. 2017 Dec;36(6):1593-1600.   Janssen DJ, Carnielli VP, Cogo P, Bohlin K, Hamvas A, Luijendijk IH, Bunt JE, Tibboel D, Zimmermann LJ.  Surfactant phosphatidylcholine metabolism in neonates with meconium aspiration syndrome. J Pediatr. 2006 Nov;149(5):634-9.   Kabaran S, Besler HT.  Do fatty acids affect fetal programming?  J Health Popul Nutr. 2015 Aug 13;33:14.   Kopincova J, Calkovska A.  Meconium-induced inflammation and surfactant inactivation: specifics of molecular mechanisms.  Pediatr Res. 2016 Apr;79(4):514-21.   Lu YP, Reichetzeder C, Prehn C, Yin LH, Yun C, Zeng S, Chu C, Adamski J, Hocher B.   Cord Blood Lysophosphatidylcholine 16: 1 is Positively Associated with Birth Weight. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2018;45(2):614-624.   Maas C, Franz AR, Shunova A, Mathes M, Bleeker C, Poets CF, Schleicher E, Bernhard W.  Choline and polyunsaturated fatty acids in preterm infants' maternal milk. Eur J Nutr. 2017 Jun;56(4):1733-1742.   Min Y, Djahanbakhch O, Hutchinson J, Bhullar AS, Raveendran M, Hallot A, Eram S, Namugere I, Nateghian S, Ghebremeskel K.  Effect of docosahexaenoic acid-enriched fish oil supplementation in pregnant women with Type 2 diabetes on membrane fatty acids and fetal body composition--double-blinded randomized placebo-controlled trial.  Diabet Med. 2014 Nov;31(11):1331-40.   Wurtman RJ.  Synapse formation and cognitive brain development: effect of docosahexaenoic acid and other dietary constituents.  Metabolism. 2008 Oct;57 Suppl 2:S6-10.   Wurtman RJ, Cansev M, Ulus IH.  Synapse formation is enhanced by oral administration of uridine and DHA, the circulating precursors of brain phosphatides.  J Nutr Health Aging. 2009 Mar;13(3):189-97.   Yan J, Jiang X, West AA, Perry CA, Malysheva OV, Brenna JT, Stabler SP, Allen RH, Gregory JF 3rd, Caudill MA.  Pregnancy alters choline dynamics: results of a randomized trial using stable isotope methodology in pregnant and nonpregnant women.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Dec;98(6):1459-67.      

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