All About the Egg: How egg quality may affect your fertility (and what you can do about it!)
[Note: Stay tuned for Part 2, All About the Sperm as it takes two to make a healthy baby!]
Let’s start with a review of female physiology: We are born with all of the eggs we will ever have- about 400,000 at birth. These eggs remain dormant until puberty and then each cycle approximately 20 are recruited and begin the maturation process under the influence of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone). This maturation process takes about 100 days from start (recruitment) to finish (ovulation). During this growth phase, one of the eggs (occasionally two or three;) becomes dominant (and will be ovulated) and the rest die off. If all goes well, sperm and egg meet, an embryo develops and grows as it moves through the fallopian tube and implantation occurs! Or in the case of IVF, ideally multiple eggs are stimulated, retrieved, fertilized, and an embryo is transferred back to the uterus:)
You might be thinking “well if I am born with all the eggs I have, it doesn’t seem that there is much that I can do about them at this point??” While we can’t make more eggs or change genetic variables, it turns out that there may be some things you can do to make them healthier and improve their function as they grow and set the blueprint for that egg moving forward. That 100 day period of maturation (about 3 cycles) when the eggs are activated from hibernation may offer a window of opportunity.
We know all of the following can affect the health of an egg:
Age- As we age, our cells become sluggish as they have have a decreased ability to promote energy production. The amount of energy-producing cells (mitochondria) in the egg itself are also fewer with age which can lead to dysfunction of the eggs replicating capacities and lead to damage of DNA.
Nutritional Status- Being overweight or underweight can affect mitochondrial function as can deficiencies of vitamins, nutrients, protein. and water. Women with PCOS may have issues with insulin resistance that can affect the health of the egg.
Environmental Exposures- As it turns out, eggs are very susceptible to environment in which they mature. Environmental toxins such as pesticides, hormones, chemicals, cigarettes, marijuana, and alcohol accelerate the aging of eggs.
Stress- When stress is high, our body (in an attempt of self-preservation) diverts blood flow away from our reproductive organs. This reduction in blood flow reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that supply the ovary.
Genetic Factors- Certain genetic disorders can cause premature ovarian failure or increased likelihood of passing on genetic conditions to offspring.
So what can you do improve your egg health and chances of a healthy conception and pregnancy over the next 100 days?
Consider adding in supplements to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need to improve egg quality and increase mitochondria production! CoQ10 is our top recommendation along with Vitamin D, prenatal vitamin with folate versus folic acid (check out our blog post on this one;), and fish oil as a base. Contact us for more information on the brands and dosages we suggest as not all supplements are created equal!
Eat a clean, balanced diet! Eat organic as much as possible and avoid pesticides and hormones in meat and dairy. If you have dietary sensitivities, avoid those foods (such as gluten). Ask us for our fertility diet guide or our fertility foods cheat sheet!
Clean out your cabinets of non-stick frying pans, chemicals, makeup, and body products (including anti-bacterial soap) that contain fragrances, parabens, and other toxic ingredients. Use glass instead of plastic. Drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day. Quit smoking and reduce or omit alcohol and caffeine.
Get plenty of sleep (minimum 7-9 hours) and include daily stress reduction techniques such as breathing, meditation, or gentle exercise such as walking, restorative yoga, or tai chi.
Get regular acupuncture to improve blood flow to the ovaries, reduce stress, and improve sleep:)
Let us know if you would like to schedule a phone call to learn more about how acupuncture can help make the next 100 days the best yet!
In good health,