Improving egg quality is one of the top 3 things you can do to improve your chances of getting and staying pregnant. The other two things that are needed for pregnancy to occur are good sperm health and a reasonably healthy female body. When we optimize these 3 factors it gives you the best chance of conceiving naturally (and with interventions like IUI and IVF).
As we age, oxidative stress can damage our cells – including our eggs. This damage can make it difficult to get pregnant as well as increase the risk of chromosomal issues, miscarriages, and birth defects. The good news — there are many natural things you can do to decrease oxidative stress and improve the quality of your eggs!
How do I know if I have poor egg quality?
You may have already been told that you have low (diminished) ovarian reserve and/or poor egg quality. An antral follicle count is an ultrasound of your ovaries that counts the number follicles that are ready to fully mature that cycle. (Note: this count will change cycle to cycle) While there is no way to tell egg quality for sure without extracting your eggs, some hormone tests can indicate issues.
Cycle Day 3 FSH Levels:
Follicle Stimulating Hormone is used as a gauge of ovarian reserve. It is the hormone that triggers the ovaries to grow and mature follicles (eggs). When the ovaries do not respond easily to FSH, their quality is questionable. Higher levels of FSH often indicate diminished ovarian reserve and poorer quality eggs. Some autoimmune conditions, genetics, smoking, recovering from amenorrhea, and early menopause can also cause higher FSH levels.
- 6 mIU/ml – considered excellent
- 6-9 mIU/ml – good
- 10-13 mIU/ml – may have diminished reserve and quality of eggs
- 13+ mIU/ml – more difficult to stimulate
FSH can vary from cycle to cycle and may be affected by stress. It is good to retest FSH if you have a higher level.
Cycle Day 3 AMH:
Anti-mullerian Hormone is another hormone often used to gauge ovarian reserve — which often goes along with egg health. AMH is produced by healthy functional follicles, so the lower the AMH the lower number of healthy, functional follicles.
Common AMH Ranges Based on Age: (ng/ml)
- 27 or younger: 2.7 to ~3
- 27 – 33: 1.9
- 33 – 36: 1.3
- 36 -39: .9 to 1
- 40+: .5 to 1
It is good to remember that even if you have poor ovarian reserve you can still conceive if the quality of your eggs is good!
What causes oxidative stress and leads to poor egg quality?
- Exposure to environmental toxins (in what you eat, drink, breath, lotions, cleaners etc)
- Nutrition and nutrient deficiencies, lack of antioxidants
- Hormone imbalance
- Drugs (pharmaceutical or recreational)
- Alcohol consumption
- Stress – affects hormone balance among other things
- Other conditions such as PCOS & endometriosis
The age-related decline in your egg quality has more to do with the accumulation of toxins, nutrient depletions, and hormone imbalances that happen over the years rather than just your chronological age. This is good news! This means you can often improve egg quality by addressing these issues and increase your chances of conceiving.
How to improve egg quality:
- Eat a whole-food based diet with lots of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory foods, and omega 3 fatty acid. Minimize alcohol, caffeine, and sugar. If you have food sensitivities, these also need to be addressed.
- Reduce environmental toxins and support your body’s detox pathways. Unfortunately, toxins are everywhere – in what we eat, drink, slather on our bodies, what we clean with etc. Don’t get overwhelmed, but start decreasing these toxins and especially watch out for xenoestrogens (another post on this later).
- Address hormone imbalances. Try taking our hormone assessment or consider Dutch hormone testing.
- Replenish nutrient deficiencies
- Reduce stress. Increased cortisol can decrease estrogen production and impact ovulation.
- Supplements for egg quality: (add based on root health issues)
- Vitamins D and E
- Myo-inositol (esp. for PCOS)
- Selenium, zinc, iron
- Maca root
- Stop smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Acupuncture, massage, yoga/exercise – may all help with decreasing stress and improving blood flow
It’s important to remember that the process for egg maturation takes months. The final maturation process takes about 120 day or 3 months. Stick with the changes you are making and give them some time to work
Set up a free fertility consult here if you are interested in working with me!