Easter eggs are not the only eggs on people’s mind in this spring as the season sees a height of activity of new life within the natural world, so it’s no wonder that couples instinctively think about starting a family at this time of year.
However, how many of us think about our egg quality when we start trying for a family?
Egg quality is one of the most important factors in whether a woman is able to conceive, but it’s a conversation that many never think about until they are already struggling to get pregnant or when they’ve had multiple miscarriages.
Poor egg quality is one of the most common attributes to infertility, especially in women over 35 and the saying that ‘life starts with an egg’ can’t be truer statement.
Life starts with an egg.
Egg quality is fundamental because it determines not only embryo quality but the ability of the embryo to develop into a healthy pregnancy and ultimately the birth of your new born baby. Poor egg quality is closely associated with chromosomal abnormalities in embryos, also known as aneuploidy. In some cases, aneuploidy can cause birth defects, but more often it results in miscarriage, often at such an early stage that a woman does not even know she was pregnant which can be also be termed a chemical pregnancy.
When a woman is born, it is understood her ovaries already contain a lifetime of eggs. Over the years, the number of these eggs reduce, and egg quality begins to decline, usually in her early thirties. This decline accelerates through the late thirties and early forties and continues until she finally reaches the end of her fertile years.
How do I know that my cycle is Normal or that I have a diminished reserve?
Every woman is unique, and there is no way to predict for certain when someone might start to experience diminished ovarian reserve. In rare cases a woman can go through premature ovarian failure beginning in her early 20s, while at the other end of the scale a particularly fertile woman may not experience any significant decline until her early 40s.
The only way to find out is to have some blood tests to determine your ovarian reserve. These tests are usually carried out by fertility specialists. Checking your egg health can give your peace of mind and help you understand where you stand with ovarian reserve and egg quality when you are ready to get pregnant.
Check your egg health
Early and regular monitoring of your egg quality and quantity is important. Waiting until you are already having trouble may mean losing precious time. This is something we check in our clinic to get an accurate snapshot of your fertility at any given point in time, and can help you make decisions as you move forward with options for you, this may include ‘Is it a good time to freeze your eggs’? ‘What should your timeline for conception be’? Are you likely to need assisted reproductive technologies (ART) to get pregnant?
In IVF, problems with egg quality can mean that the resulting embryos don’t implant, or that the eggs fail to fertilise at all. However, what is confusing to many and a question I am asked very often is, ‘why is it that I have had top grade embryos, yet IVF hasn’t worked? There can be many answers but is it very likely down to the egg quality at a deeper cellular level where the eye cannot see, and science has yet to identify.
Whether you are trying to conceive naturally on your own or are getting ready to embark on IVF, can you really make an impact on your eggs and the quality?
To help you answer these questions would normally require a few fairly simple tests carried out which would include;
Antral Follicle Count (ultrasound).
Antral follicles are small ovarian follicles which can be seen through an ultrasound. By counting the number of visible antral follicles, gives some indication how many primordial follicles which are microscopic, each containing an immature egg a woman is likely to have. More follicles usually indicate a higher ovarian reserve.
FSH (blood test).
Follicle stimulating hormone, or FHS, is one of the most important hormones in ovulation. It is produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates the follicles in your ovaries to mature and release an egg when you ovulate.
Measuring FSH levels early in the menstrual cycle lets us see how hard your body is working to make ovulation happen. Your body will keep making more and more FHS until you ovulate: if you don’t ovulate at all, your pituitary gland will not get the message to stop production, and the levels of FHS in your body will rise. This means that high FSH levels usually indicate diminished ovarian reserve.
AMH (blood test).
AMH, or anti-mullerian hormone, is produced by small ovarian follicles at early stages of growth, which are moving from the microscopic primordial state to the stage where they have the potential to produce eggs. Testing AMH levels does not reveal much about egg quality but may be able to indicate whether or not a woman still has a large pool of growing follicles, which may mean she is likely to produce more viable eggs.
These tests give some indication to your overall fertility but unfortunately there still isn’t a test available as yet to indicate the overall quality of your eggs before pregnancy occurs.
How can you improve your egg quality?
As a woman, healthy eggs are fundamental to regular menstrual cycles, fertility and the ability to conceive. So how do you ensure your eggs are as healthy as possible? There are a wide variety of factors that influence egg health. By making some simple lifestyle changes, you can improve egg quality and increase your chances of getting pregnant.
When you are trying to conceive it’s best to start making choices “as if” you are already pregnant. Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet with plenty of protein, avoid foods that are processed and known to be high in toxins, cut out nicotine, alcohol, sugar and caffeine, and allow yourself time to exercise and have some recreational fun time too.
Effects of Stress on Egg Quality
Being told “to relax or chillout ” can be most frustrating when you’re struggling with fertility but reducing stress wherever you can actually does have health benefits. Stress triggers physiological reactions in the body which can cause a less than ideal environment for your eggs. However, for most life does hand out stress so don’t get yourself worried about avoiding all stress as it’s not possible, and stressing out about stress is a vicious circle. But do give yourself tools for dealing with it when it arises that included complementary therapies and relaxation techniques whilst not forgetting the support of friends and family can really help you through tough times.
Do ovaries make new eggs through adult life?
It was previously believed that women are born with all of their eggs and the body does not continue to produce more. However, In the last few years, research has found stem cells within ovaries that are capable of producing new eggs during your reproductive years but the how is not clearly known as yet from a science point of view. However, age still remains an important factor because although it seem that your body can produce eggs even as you age, eggs becomes less ideal with age due to cellular degeneration.
If you’ve been told your odds of getting pregnant are very low because your eggs are “old,” there’s still hope as long as we have helped many women improve their egg quality with pregnancy outcomes. However, to do this it’s important to make the right diet and lifestyle choices to facilitate your body towards healthy egg development.
Our treatment program looks at treatment and lifestyle changes for at least 3 months in order to see benefits for your egg quality. As your eggs change in preparation for ovulation they are susceptible to healthy and unhealthy influences.
Here are my top 5 important factors to consider when trying to get pregnant and improve egg quality.
1 Get your hormones balanced
Hormonal imbalances are incredibly common and can be caused by any number of things including environmental factors, stress and modern diets. Imbalanced hormones can lead to an out of balance fertility cycle such as PCOS, in which case ovulation may not take place.
You can help get your hormones back on track by:
Eating a diet of plant base foods that include green leafy vegetables, as well foods that are omega and protein such as spinach, kale, avocado, lentils, quinoa, flaxseed and chia seed.
Cleansing your system of excess hormones caused by stress and foods is important so eliminating foods high in sugar, caffeine, processed, alcohol as well as quitting smoking.
2 Improve your blood flow & oxygenation
Healthy eggs require oxygen rich blood flow. Blood flow can decrease if you do not exercise regularly and you do not drink enough water.
Ways to improve blood flow and oxygenation:
Drink at least 8 (8oz.) glasses of water every day.
Exercise regularly—walking, running, hiking, yoga or sports that you enjoy.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are highly researched on its effects of improving the flow of blood and oxygen, but reflexology and massage have also seen improvements in this area.
3 Eat A Healthy Diet That Is Nutritionally Balanced
What you eat directly impacts the health of your eggs. There are countless foods that help promote healthy egg development and our nutritional program looks at a balanced diet high in Iron and omega rich foods as mentioned. But other foods you should also include are those rich in anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidants and are rich in B, C and D vitamins. Examples of foods are ;
Dark leafy veggies
Aim to avoid foods that negatively impact egg quality, such as:
4. Prenatal Vitamins
Prenatal and postnatal multivitamins help ensure your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs to facilitate healthy egg development right through to pregnancy that are high in folate and a range of vitamins. Look for vitamins made from whole food as opposed to synthetic multivitamins as it’s important that the vitamins are of good quality to enable absorption rather than your body expelling them which is a waste of time and money. DHEA is something I recommend for those with low AMH but this should be monitored and for short term use only.
Antioxidant supplements can also help boost fertility as they actively shield your eggs against radical damage. Free radicals can damage your eggs down to the cellular level, impacting your ability to get pregnant and carry out a healthy pregnancy.
5. Reduce Your Stress
Stress impacts your body in so many ways, including egg quality. When you are regularly stressed out your body produces prolactin, cortisol and other hormones that can deter your body from regular ovulation.
Reduce your stress levels by:
Taking regular walks to clear your head and just enjoy being within nature.
Chill out with a bubble bath, good book, or whatever sends you to your happy place.
Invest in complementary treatment focused around helping your fertility
which can help reduce your corticosteroids and increase your endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and other brain relaxing chemicals towards a healthy mental and body wellbeing.
A change in lifestyle can help towards your egg quality and therefore pregnancy.
Whilst there is currently a limited amount of research to show ways to improve egg quality once it has begun to decline, we have patient data showing an increase in AMH and egg reserves using our nutritional and treatment approach that have seen high pregnancy outcomes. However, although there is a limited amount of research out there to clearly identifies specifics of egg quality common sense and self-care will go a long way towards ensuring that your body as a whole is functioning at its peak potential for health. You deserve to feel healthy for yourself and so that you’ll be ready to nurture a pregnancy when it comes.
Should you require more information from Michelle on how to improve your egg quality or wish to make an appointment, contact her on Info@michellemulliss.com
10 Harley Street London WG1 9PF on 0207 467 8467
Kent Clinics 0208 242 6508 firstname.lastname@example.org