The quality of your eggs may not be top of your priority list (unless you’re shopping for that weekend brunch). However, for women of reproductive age, supporting your egg quality can improve your chances of conceiving and reduce your risk of miscarriage.
As we are generally having babies later in life, egg quality may be an important factor to consider. Whilst we are busy focusing on our careers and other interests, reproductive health may not be a priority unless we are experiencing fertility issues. We can’t see our egg cells so it can be difficult to understand their importance. So, here’s the lowdown...
As women, we are born with all the egg cells that we are ever going to have – approximately 2 million eggs. But we don’t just lose one egg per month, in fact, we’re pretty much constantly losing eggs. After puberty, we lose around 1000 eggs per month.
Where do the eggs go?
During an average cycle (26 – 35 days) FSH is released to stimulate the growth of a small number of egg-containing follicles in the ovaries. Only one of these egg-containing follicles will grow enough for fertilisation, and all the other potential eggs die off (RIP eggs).
Not only are we losing eggs, but just like every other cell in our body, our egg cells age and are exposed to DNA damage. It’s this DNA damage that can affect our chances of pregnancy and increase our risk of miscarriage.
So, what can you do about this?
The number of eggs you are born with and the rate at which you lose them is pretty much set in stone.
However, ovarian ageing is affected by several factors including our lifestyle habits, medical conditions, genetics, and our environment. Whilst many of these are outside of our control, below are my top 5 tips for enhancing egg quality:
Maintain a healthy weight.
We know that obesity has been linked to anovulation (not ovulating) infertility and miscarriage. However, being overweight is also associated with low-grade, chronic inflammation which leads to poorer-quality eggs.
Moderation is key here; losing or gaining weight too quickly puts a lot of stress on the body and our menstrual health can equally suffer; think anovulation, missing periods – not ideal if we are TTC. Speak to your GP or nutritionist if you need support with weight management.
Not just an expensive habit, smoking can damage and age the ovaries by up to 5 years. Smokers can also experience a 60% reduction in fertility and are at greater risk of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. If that’s not enough to put you off, smoking disrupts the normal menstrual cycle balance and can reduce ovarian follicle development, and egg quality.
We are bombarded with the importance of anti-inflammatory foods and habits, but this one’s for free. Melatonin (a hormone produced in the body that helps to control our sleep-wake cycle) reduces inflammation and is associated with better egg and embryo quality. Even more reason to treat yourself to an early night and work on getting those 8 precious hours of sleep each night.
Vitamin D (technically speaking, is a hormone).
It’s responsible for supporting our reproductive hormones production, ovulation and AMH (Anti-Müllerian Hormone) egg reserve levels. Our bodies make vitamin D under the skin after exposure to the sun. Unfortunately, in the northern hemisphere, the sun is not strong enough to provide enough vitamin D year-round. Other than the sun, the best sources of vitamin D are oily fish and egg yolks. If these aren’t your thing, many breakfast cereals, plant-based milks and butter spreads are fortified with vitamin D. You might want to consider a vitamin supplement, but always check with your GP or a nutritionist first as it's always worth testing your baseline level first. You can read more on Vitamin D in my previous blog post.
Folate and folic acid – what’s the difference?
Folate is a B vitamin that is naturally found in green leafy veg (spinach, kale, broccoli), beans and legumes (think chickpeas, lentils – hello hummus). Folic acid is folate’s synthetic sister, which is used to fortify foods and supplements. Both folate and folic acid make sure our cell’s DNA replicates perfectly (kind of important if you are planning a pregnancy) and are associated with reduced oxidative stress and improved egg quality. However, due to the genetic mutation MTHFR, it’s thought that up to 50% of us can’t utilise the synthetic form folic acid, properly so you may want to pick up a high-quality prenatal supplement that includes food-grown folate or methylfolate, which are more absorbable by the body.
If you are finding fertility advice overwhelming, or you would like some more tailored nutritional support, book in a call to see how Hayley can support you further.