Pregnancy difficulties can sometimes be caused by poor egg quality. Our guide will cover different ways to improve the quality of your eggs and increase your chances of pregnancy..
Infertility can affect women of all ages, and egg quality is one of the leading causes for pregnancy difficulties. Eggs can decline due to a number of factors, such as age, diet, and other lifestyle choices. They cannot naturally regrow once lost.
However, there are many proven ways to increase egg quality and slow the rate of decline to help improve the odds of a successful pregnancy.
Egg quality can be improved in several ways including managing stress, eating healthier, and taking supplements.
It takes 3 to 4 months for egg quality to improve after implementing lifestyle changes. In some cases, it may take longer.
Egg quality can be checked through a variety of tests including a transvaginal ultrasound test and the clomid challenge test.
This guide will help you understand the importance of good quality eggs for fertility, along with tips on how you can help fight infertility today.
For a woman to be fertile, she needs to have enough high-quality eggs that can be successfully fertilized and implanted for pregnancy to occur.
When a woman is born, she may have around 1,000,000 or more oocytes within her ovaries that can become potential eggs. This is the maximum number of eggs a woman will have throughout her life, and it will decrease at varying rates over time.
Before puberty, tens of thousands of potential eggs will naturally die off, and even more will die off eventually during ovulation in the menstrual cycle. This is when an egg is released into the fallopian tube where it can be fertilized to begin pregnancy.
After 35, a woman will have much fewer eggs making pregnancy more difficult. After 40 and after 45, most women will need treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF) in order to get pregnant due to the limited amount of high-quality eggs.
According to Dr. Ila Dayandada of Oula Health, “Age and genetics are the two main factors that determine egg quality.”
In addition to age playing a major role in infertility, there are other reasons a woman's eggs may decline more rapidly. This includes chronic stress, a poor diet, plus lifestyle choices.
There are some ways to potentially reverse this trend and help to increase egg quality. Dr. Dayanada mentions the following as possibly being helpful:
While these methods may help, Dr. Dayananda stresses that there’s no guarantee egg quality will be improved. Let’s look deeper into what can potentially improve egg quality.
Stress releases a high amount of cortisol, which is a hormone that can also decrease the amount of estradiol, or estrogen, in women. Over time, this hormonal imbalance can lead to a decrease in egg quality, making infertility more likely.
Some ways to decrease stress include:
If you’re suffering from chronic stress, anxiety, depression, or any similar problems, it’s important to speak with a doctor or therapist to get the right treatment. Stress can affect more than just fertility, and it’s important to always take care of your mental health through professional guidance.
Studies have found that women who smoke were much more likely to be infertile than non-smoking women. Researchers also noticed that those who smoked more cigarettes had fewer eggs as well, meaning that the negative effects were likely dose dependent.
Other experts point out that cigarettes can cause short-term damage to egg development.
While quitting smoking is the healthiest option, even smoking fewer cigarettes may have a positive effect on fertility.
As the researchers noted, women who quit smoking were soon found to be fertile at similar rates to non-smokers.
For the highest chance of fertility, try to quit or even reduce your smoking to quickly improve egg quality and quantity.
Having a higher body mass index, or BMI, is related to an increased loss of oocytes that can become potential eggs.
When outside of a normal BMI, which is 18.5-24.9 for the average woman, researchers have found that egg quality and quantity can quickly suffer. Obese women are especially prone to lower quality eggs along with an increased rate of egg loss.
However, researchers found that those who lost even a minimal amount of weight were able to quickly improve their egg quality. This means that healthier lifestyle choices may help to reverse egg decline and help to increase your fertility.
To lose weight and increase fertility, you can try:
Losing weight is often a slow process, and it's important to build habits that you can maintain in the long-term. Make sure to talk to your doctor as well so you can lose weight in a safe and healthy way.
Eating a well-balanced diet can help to greatly increase fertility and egg quality.
Studies have found that a diet full of sugar and saturated fats can lead to increased rates of infertility, while a healthier diet can greatly improve the chances of a successful pregnancy.
To help increase fertility, researchers recommend following a Mediterranean diet.
This includes a daily intake of:
In more specific cases, certain nutrients can lead to higher fertility rates as well, including:
It’s helpful to get a blood panel from your doctor to see if you are deficient in any essential nutrients. While a balanced diet can be effective, some people may need supplementation to reduce any deficiencies.
Having a strong circulatory system is essential for ovarian health, egg health, and overall well-being. With impeded blood flow or other circulation problems, the delicate oocytes within the ovaries may become damaged and reduced at a further rate.
Some ways to increase blood flow and encourage a healthy circulatory system include:
There are many high-quality supplements available that may help to increase egg quality and fertility in women. Dr. Dayananda recommends omega-3 and Coenzyme Q10 supplements.
Studies have found that Omega-3 fatty acids can help to increase fertility rates in women by encouraging healthy blood flow to the ovaries and reducing oxidative stress within the body.
Both iron and folate (vitamin B9) have also been shown to aid in egg health. Additionally, there are high-quality supplements available, such as Fertility Support for Her, that contain well-researched herbal ingredients and vitamins to support fertility and female health. This fertility supplement may help to:
Remember to always talk with your doctor before trying any new supplement.
Eggs can often take 3-4 months to mature before ovulation, which means that if you want to improve your egg quality, you should make the necessary health changes at least 3-4 months before you wish to conceive.
Of course, every woman is different, and depending on the cause of poor egg quality, it may take more time for changes to take place.
Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or losing weight will likely lead to healthier eggs in the future, but it’s important not to get discouraged if your eggs take longer to improve.
With professional help, you can get an idea of how healthy your eggs are to see if you’re on the right track for pregnancy or other options, like IVF.
Fertility doctors and other licensed professionals can utilize fertility tests to gauge the quality of your eggs, and some options include:
Follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) help eggs to reach maturity in the ovaries. Doctors can determine the potential quantity and quality of eggs by studying how much FSH a woman has in her blood during her menstrual cycle.
In many cases, an FSH test will be on the third day of the menstrual cycle to check the baseline amount of the hormone. If there’s a higher amount of the hormone present, it may indicate that the body has fewer eggs and therefore needs more of the hormone to stimulate growth.
While a high FSH amount on day three indicates potentially fewer eggs, a normal or lower amount of the hormone doesn’t necessarily prove there's not a problem.
To help, doctors may also conduct an estradiol test at the same time. Estradiol is a potent form of estrogen in the blood, and a higher amount on day three may indicate problems.
For example, a normal FSH reading but a high estradiol level may mean that there are fewer eggs available, since the estradiol may in fact suppress the true FSH reading.
Since both FSH and estradiol levels can be analyzed with a blood sample, many doctors will order both tests at once to get a more accurate reading. This can help to paint a more accurate picture of overall egg quality, and will give you more information on how to improve egg quality for IVF or pregnancy.
While an ultrasound can’t show the eggs themselves, it can show the follicles (fluid sacs) around the egg to help doctors determine whether there is a larger or smaller reserve of eggs available.
A larger number of follicles may mean that the eggs are also of a higher quality, although this test mostly excels at providing an estimated quantity. However, it’s still an important test for anyone experiencing infertility, and especially for those undergoing IVF or other treatments.
The Clomiphene Citrate Challenge Test, or CCCT for short, is similar to other fertility blood tests while being slightly more comprehensive.
It involves taking Clomid, which is a fertility medication, and then checking FSH levels on day 3 and day 10 of the menstrual cycle. Estradiol levels will also be checked both times.
On both days, an elevated FSH level may indicate lower egg quality.
Can egg quality be improved? It absolutely can, and there are many steps you can take today to increase your fertility.
From exercising to quitting smoking and managing your stress, you can increase your egg quality and give yourself the best chance of getting pregnant in the future.
But Dr. Dayananda cautions that there’s only so much control one can have over their egg quality.
As you work to improve your eggs, be patient, as it can take 3 to 4 months or longer to see positive changes.
Make sure to talk with your doctor about any lifestyle changes, and see if they can provide you with fertility tests so you have more information to work with.
Ila Dayananda, MD, MPH got her degree and Master’s in Public Health at Northwestern University Medical School. She pursued an OB/GYN residency at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and continued with the Family Planning Fellowship at Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Dr. Dayananda is passionate about improving the experience that people have when they seek reproductive health care – from reproductive health and pregnancy planning, the pregnancy journey, and navigating postpartum care and next steps.
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