YOU can improve egg quality in 90 days: Here’s How!
Firstly, let us take a look at some myths and facts about YOUR Eggs and whether you can improve egg quality:
FACT # 1 – You are born with all the eggs you will ever have. In fact, all your eggs are older than you are because they were developed when you were an embryo before you were born.
Fact #2 – Those eggs are not the same as the eggs that you ovulate. – The eggs that you created as an embryo are called primordial follicles and they go through many stages to reach maturity the image below is what happens, and it’s called gametogenesis.
Fact #3 – Not all the egg quality is determined by the primordial egg, the hormones and chemicals regulating the process play a substantial role you can improve egg quality
Myth #1 – There is no point trying to improve egg quality over 40. We see this all over the place. Whilst it is true that your egg quality naturally declines with age and that by 42 you have a very slim chance of getting pregnant naturally. It’s also true that by working on improving your egg quality to the best yours can be, you give yourself the best chance of conception either naturally or through a fresh IVF cycle.
Fact #4 – It takes about 90 days for the changes you make to start impacting your egg quality. This is because the oocyte gametogenesis takes about 90 days from a primordial oocyte (egg) to a mature egg ready for ovulation.
What is a quality egg?
In simple terms, egg quality is whether an egg is ‘normal’ in terms of chromosomes. Eggs which are chromosomally ‘normal’ are called euploid and those that are ‘abnormal’ are called aneuploid.
Normal egg quality are those eggs which have 23 chromosomes. Which when fertilised by a normal sperm also containing 23 chromosomes become a healthy viable embryo with 46 chromosomes.
So high-quality eggs are those that have the best chance of being fertilised, developing into good quality blastocysts, implanting in the uterus and ultimately resulting in a pregnancy.
Is there an egg quality test I can use to check my egg quality?
There is a lot of misconceptions around whether you can test for egg quality. There is a lot of misleading information on the internet which talks about the role of FSH (Follicular Stimulating Hormone) in terms of egg quality and how measuring the levels can give you accurate and detailed information about the quality of your eggs. This is NOT strictly true.
What is true is that FSH is a vital hormone involved in the maturation of your eggs. In simple terms it is released by the pituitary gland which causes the eggs to start maturing, this, in turn, stimulates the release of estrogen which as the levels rise stops the release of FSH.
By understanding this you can understand that FSH levels naturally change in the body dependent upon where you are within your cycle.
If the levels of FSH are above 10 or the levels of estrogen are way too high or too low, then these can be ‘indicators’ of poor egg quality but isn’t a direct test for egg quality
There is also a lot of inaccurate information about using AMH as an indicator for egg quality, in a nutshell, it won’t tell you this. If you want more information on this then check out our does AMH help predict your fertility future article.
The only way that you can properly test for egg quality is through genetic testing of the individual egg, this is why some people only find out they have poor quality eggs, due to lack of fertilisation or PGS-A Testing – but this is an expensive option and in most cases NOT worth it.
However, in the instance of giving all the information, many women do opt for what I call an egg check-up. You won’t be able to get this in the UK on the NHS until you have been trying for at least 12 months unsuccessfully – however private clinics in the UK, USA and around the world will do them. The most diagnostically important tests which could help you at least understand if you need to improve your egg quality or are likely to need assisted reproduction help are below:
- Antral Follicle Count (ultrasound) – These are the small follicles seen within the ovaries, during this scan they will be counted, using this they can use a calculation to give an estimate of how many primordial follicles you are likely to have.
- Day 3 FSH (blood test) – We have already discussed what FSH does, day 3 of the cycle gives the most information and can be used to make sure that you are ovulating correctly, and the hormones are in balance
- AMH (blood test) – The anti-mullerian hormone test won’t reveal much about egg quality but will give you a single snapshot of your ovarian reserve.
Is poor egg quality a common reason for trouble trying to conceive?
According to several studies; in an average woman with no known fertility issues, a woman in her 20’s will have about 1 in 5 eggs being abnormal and unlikely to lead to conception. For women aged 40 and upwards this starts at 4 in 5 eggs being abnormal and continues to rise as you age.
So, we are looking at those individuals who have a greater number of abnormal eggs than the above. One key problem is there is a lack of studies which look scientifically at egg quality in people who are trying to conceive naturally, this is because as we said in order to be accurate about a specific egg it either has to fertilise or it has to have genetic testing. But from recent studies, it is clear that egg quality is a common reason for those having trouble conceiving.
Is it worth improving egg quality for IVF?
The simple answer is yes. If you aren’t familiar with IVF you can check out our IVF process and timeline article. Let’s look at this a little more detail.
There are some pre-down regulation protocols, which are specifically designed to improve egg quality or boost your response to stimulation. But for most first time IVF cycles it’s likely you will be on either a standard(ish) long or short protocol. This happens at most 40 days before your eggs are retrieved. So if you have started your IVF treatment it is unlikely that you will get any meaningful improvements to egg quality before they are collected.
However, if you are going through IVF treatment or waiting for that first consultation it is absolutely worth focusing upon improving your egg quality as this will have an impact upon the eggs that you have collected. This will give them the best chance of being fertilised, developing into good quality blastocysts and finally the best chance of implanting after embryo transfer.
I have IVF treatment soon; can I improve my egg quality in 30 days?
This is where it gets a little grey, as we showed above if you are to start your treatment in 30 days and even on the longest protocol it will usually be at most 40 days till collection this takes it to 70 days, which is right on the cusp of being effective.
However, it’s not completely black and white. The reason for this is that many of the tips and precautions to improve egg quality that we will be discussing next have benefits that go further than just egg quality, as such, many of these tips are ABSOLUTELY worth being followed as they will have additional benefits to you or to your developing child if you are to become pregnant following a successful IVF cycle.
4 Precautions to take which could lead to poor egg quality
We will look at 4 evidence-based precautions that you should take – As these are known risk factors which can reduce your egg quality
Precaution # 1 – Watch what you’re drinking: Caffeine, Alcohol and Dehydration
I know you have heard this one before, we all have! But it’s important and that is why we have included it. It’s very easy to know this but many people struggle putting this into practice.
Alcohol – There are many studies including this one which shows that alcohol impacts fertility and increases your chance of miscarrying it states
“that showed drinking between one and five drinks a week can reduce a women’s chances of conceiving, and 10 drinks or more decreases the likelihood of conception even further”
As such you should completely abstain from drinking alcohol. This is especially important because if you do get pregnant and you continue to drink a substantial amount then this can cause problems with your child. One specific risk is alcohol foetal syndrome.
Caffeine – All the stress and hype around the impacts of caffeine stem from a 1988 study which concluded that women who drank 1 cup of coffee were half as likely to conceive. Since then NO other study has been able to replicate those results. In fact, most studies show that there is very little correlation between normal caffeine intake and fertility. But there is a growing body of evidence showing that there may be a link to increased chances of miscarriage. So, we won’t recommend complete abstinence but do recommend keeping intake to less than 400mg per day or 2 small cups of coffee a day.
Dehydration – Make sure you stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. Hydration impacts a number of things, if you’re dehydrated it impacts your cervical fluid which can make it harder for sperm to reach the egg, It reduces blood volume which leads to less blood flow something that we will pick up in a tip in the next section and finally it also can impact egg quality directly. So, avoid becoming dehydrated.
Precaution # 2 – Reduce your consumption of refined sugar
Simply put refined sugar is in a huge amount of processed foods, go open your cupboards and look at the list of ingredients and you will see it’s in loads. It’s often used to enhance flavour, so you can imagine why food manufacturers love it!
Refined sugar is simply the white sugar that is often used in your hot drinks and baking and as you have now seen loads of processed foods.
Unrefined sugar is the sugar cane, and this contains all the nutrients required to effectively metabolise sugar. However, when you eat white sugar these nutrients have been removed which means that your body has to use its own reserves of these nutrients to metabolise the refined sugars.
This means that your body’s reserves of nutrients are being reduced and this can put you into a nutrient deficient state. This has several impacts, it means your body has a harder time digesting foods which means you get less nutrition benefit from your foods. It also can cause hormonal imbalances which can impact your fertility.
The best way to deal with this is to limit your intake of refined sugar, in today’s society, it’s almost impossible to expect people to remove all of this from their diet. But by cooking 4-5 meals from scratch at home per week, swapping from white sugar to cane or unrefined sugar and reducing how much sweet foods you eat you will improve your fertility.
“What are Phthalates” I hear you cry! Simply put they are what makes plastics pliable. They are plasticizers. There are some good studies which are showing multiple links between these and multiple fertility problems including this one.
Essentially these chemicals can be drawn from the plastics into food and drink, into the body and can be detected in the urine and high levels of Phthalates are linked to poorer fertility and IVF outcomes.
If I don’t know what they are how can I avoid them.
Unfortunately, they are in a lot of products some of the more common forms for them are:
- BPA (Bisphenol-A)
- DEP (diethyl phthalate)
- DIDP (diisodecyl phthalate)
- DBP (dibutyl phthalate)
- BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate)
- DINP (diisononyl phthalate)
- DEHP (di 2-Ethylhexyl phthalate)
- DNOP (di-n-octyl phthalate)
- DMP (dimethyl phthalate)
Fun names I’m sure you’ll agree; they can be in all kinds of products you would likely never imagine
- Plastic drinking bottles
- Soda drinking bottles
- Food containers
- Personal care products
- Eye shadow
- Nail polish
- Liquid soap
- Hair spray
- Food wrappers
- Children’s toys
- Cleaning products
- Sex Toys
- Printing ink
- Building materials
This is not an exhaustive list just to help you realise they can be everywhere which is why they are often called ‘everywhere chemicals’. You are unlikely able to completely cut these out of your life, but making a few changes to items you directly eat, drink and comes into regular contact with your skin can make a big difference. Whilst I was trying to conceive I used this awesome BPA free water bottle from Amazon – and funnily enough, I still do, I liked the fact that it prompted me to keep drinking water.
Precaution # 4 – Reduce or eliminate exposure to environmental toxins & heavy metals
There are a couple of key things you should be avoiding the first is
- Mercury – This heavy metal Is known to interfere with the production of both eggs and sperm. The damage nervous system and for fertility specifically they impact the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). The reason for this is that mercury can be stored by the pituitary gland which can mean that it impacts the release of LH and FSH a hormone which we explored earlier so you know how important it is for reproduction and egg quality.
- Other heavy metals – Impact your fertility, they can build up in your ovaries and can impact the production of estrogen which you learnt earlier is vital in the maturation of your eggs. It can also cause problems with the production of progesterone which is a vital hormone to support implantation and the viability of early pregnancy; as such regular exposure to heavy metals and chemicals can mean that you are more likely to experience a miscarriage as well as reducing your egg quality and your fertility overall.
Many chemical cleaners don’t have to go through the same rigour as medicine and drug testing. As such many chemical cleaners can actually contain chemicals which can impact fertility. With the above in mind we advise the following precautions:
- If you work in a field where exposure to chemicals and metals is common; make sure to follow all your safety and exposure protections. You could also speak to your manager about ways to minimise your exposure to the worst of the chemicals and heavy metals.
- In your home consider switching to more natural cleaning products. These are available in many stores and supermarkets now; however, they can be pricier than the standard chemical products. TIP: You don’t have to buy them you can make many high-quality home-made cleaning products, in fact, there is a great article with 27 odd home-made cleaning options at Greatist. Check those out, remove the chemicals and save some money…Result!
- Avoid recently sprayed crops and fields
- Mercury is found in seafood and concentrates the further up the food chain you go. You DON’T need to avoid fish, in fact, please don’t its health benefits outweigh the mercury risk, just be a bit pickier about what type you eat. The image gives you some simple tips.
6 Awesome Tips to improve egg quality in 90 days
So now you know what to avoid let’s take a look at some practical tips you can do to improve your egg quality
Tip #1 -Take a look at your diet and lifestyle approach to balancing your hormones
Your hormones are regulated by your endocrine system, it uses the vitamins and nutrients that you put into the body to create these fertility hormones. As such having a nutritional deficiency or excess can cause hormonal imbalances. We will never recommend heavy dieting or the ‘miracle pregnancy diets’ which plague the fertility industry.
What we do recommend is:
- eating at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
- Eating foods which have a balanced mix of vitamins and minerals,
- Eating lean white meats,
- not having more than 1 portion of red meat per week
- At least 1 fish meal a week
- Perhaps even having 1-2 vegetarian days per week,
- changing your white starchy carbs to wholewheat/wholemeal varieties, such as brown rice, wholemeal bread and wholemeal pasta.
- Reducing your refined sugar intake
These few changes can make a big difference in your nutritional intake, ensuring that you’re not in a vitamin and mineral deficient state which means that your hormones are more likely to be in balance.
Couple this with reducing caffeine to below the recommended maximum, removing alcohol and staying hydrated. That will ensure that you have to take as few supplements as possible to ensure your egg quality remains high.
Tip #2 – Get plenty of rest
“… sleep deprivation is an illegal torture method outlawed by the Geneva Convention and international courts, but most of us do it to ourselves.” – RYAN HURD
There is a reason that humans need sleep. During our waking hours, the body is using its energy to move, to think, to digest, to concentrate, to focus. This leaves little energy left for important other bodily functions, such as cell healing, cell repair and developing eggs through the stages discussed above. Furthermore, the same part of the brain controls wake-sleep cycles and some of the important fertility hormones as such there is a close link between sleep and fertility.
There is a growing body of evidence which show’s how much infertility impacts fertility.
This one looks at shift workers and the impacts upon menstrual cycles and fertility. If you google fertility and sleep, you will find a raft of articles exploring this.
For example, I work as a nurse doing a mix of day and night shifts in an irregular pattern. I felt like I was almost constantly in a state of sleep deprivation and this was impacting my fertility. I’m not saying this is the sole reason for our infertility, but I certainly felt like it didn’t help matters and I considered changing jobs at one point in order to move to a more day based job.
So, what can you do to improve your egg quality:
- Get all the sleep you need – For most people this is around 8 hours to be productive and give your body the sleep it needs. For some this is much less, for others it is much more. To test this, when you have a week off, don’t set an alarm, go to bed at a set time and monitor what time you wake naturally and then take the average.
- There is a growing body of evidence that shift work impacts your fertility through impacting multiple areas of fertility including egg quality. So, if possible, try and workdays – We know this isn’t practical for many.
- If you do have to work shifts, try and block them together and not jump from nights to days as this seriously impacts your circadian rhythms. Also, make sure to spend the next day getting back into day-night mode.
- If possible, get some consistency to your bedtime and wake time, this includes weekends when you don’t have to be up.
- Don’t do things you find stressful or mentally stimulating before bed this will mean your brain is quieter and can improve how quickly you fall asleep,
- For those who have trouble sleeping, slowly reducing light exposure before going to bed can help.
Nathan (my partner) is a night owl and I am a morning owl; we have always had problems with finding a sleeping pattern that works for both of us. If he came to bed early, he would stare at the ceiling and end up falling asleep even later than usual and I would have a more restlessness night because he would be up and down or listen to music quietly through headphones. Then I’d wake him early when he’d only had a few hours sleep.
We decided that for us just having different bedtimes was a better option because then we would both only be disturbed once, me when he came to bed and him when he went to sleep. We both made this work and we both started to get much more sleep. So, if you and your partner have different sleep patterns try different things to work something our which works for you both.
Regular, good quality sleep will improve all facets of your fertility including egg quality, so it’s worth working on this and finding solutions and patterns that work for you and your partner.
Tip # 3 – Take the appropriate supplements
This article is already a bit of a beast and we wrote a detailed article on evidence-based supplements which you can read if you choose. The final conclusion is that you need to take 400ug of Folic acid and if you live in cold/less sunny climates or it’s winter a Vitamin D supplement.
Finally, there is a growing body of evidence that Co-enzyme Q10 can help specifically with egg quality issues, however, the evidence isn’t as strong as folic acid and vitamin D – So this one is more of a personal choice.
Tip #4 – Focus on what makes you relax
This is another one which seems obvious, but stress DOES impact fertility and egg quality. Stress can come in many forms including;
- Trying to conceive
- A change in your relationship
- Loss of focus on things other than trying to get pregnant
You can’t eliminate all the stresses of your life! It’s an impossible task. What you can do is to focus on the things that are important to you and those which help you relax as much as possible.
One area of unneeded stress for me was that I was part of so many fertility groups that I was constantly inundated with miscarriages, failed IVF cycles, negative pregnancy tests, deaths of children and very little positivity. It was making me low; it was making me overanalyse every little thing and it made me stressed. One day I was speaking to Nathan about how I was feeling about our fertility and fears that we may never get pregnant and we should do this that and the other. He called me out. He said
“Rach, I think all those groups that your part of are warping your view of things; I know you want to help and support people through their problems, but whilst we’re struggling ourselves; you surround yourself by people who are struggling, who have terrible news and who are having some of the worst fertility problems you can imagine is impacting your own mental health. I think you should stop following a few of them and stick with just the one or two that you feel are helping you; because our chances of conceiving aren’t as bad as you think and we need to focus on the positives not the negatives.”
At the time I wasn’t impressed. However, I thought about what he said, he was right, this was additional stress that I could remove from my life, I did and I felt a lot better. I went back once I was in a better place and I’m now aware of how my opinion can be shaped by the information I receive regularly.
Over time, though I found myself feeling a little isolated without those groups who shared my problems. So I turned to books. My way of relaxing became reading others stories, those with a positive outcome, those with a sad ending and those where things weren’t as I expected and it broadened my horizons and also reduced my stress because I realised it was a much bigger issue than just Nathan and I. If you’re a reader then check out the 7 fertility books that I recommend you read in 2020.
But enough of a story. Doing things that you enjoy and reduce stress have a positive impact on your egg quality
Tips #5 – Focus on blood flow
We mentioned earlier in the article that you should keep hydrated. In terms of egg quality, the main reason for this is that it helps improve blood flow to the uterus and the developing follicles meaning more nutrients and hormones reach the area’s they are needed, supporting better quality eggs and a greater chance of implantation
There are a number of things that you can do to impact your blood flow these are:
- Blood volume – As blood volume decreases this causes a reduced blood flow; these include dehydration, vomiting and some medications – especially hypertension medications
- Blood viscosity – This takes a much longer time to change. Viscosity is mainly due to the plasma proteins created in the liver. So anything that impairs or impacts liver function including alcohol, drugs and toxins including Phthalates can causes changes in the viscosity of your blood and impair blood flow.
The Science bit
I won’t go into the detail about the mathematics of blood flow other than to leave the equation devised by Jean Louis Marie Poiseuille below. If you want to read more there is a good section in the open textbook
Blood flow = π ΔP r48ηλ
π is the Greek letter pi 3.14
ΔP represents the difference in pressure.
r4 is the radius (one-half of the diameter) of the vessel to the fourth power.
η is the Greek letter eta and represents the viscosity of the blood.
λ is the Greek letter lambda and represents the length of a blood vessel.
- Doing moderate but not excessive exercise will improve your hearts’ ability to pump blood, improves general circulation and improves oxygen around the body, which is used by to help take your eggs through the differing stage.
So as you can see maintaining good blood flow is an important part of improving egg quality and this can be done by
- Exercising a moderate but not excessive amount 30 minutes 3-5 times a week is perfect.
- Maintain good hydration
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Some people also suggest that acupuncture and fertility massage – massaging the area around the uterus expands the capillaries around the uterus improving oxygen uptake by the surrounding tissues.
Tip #6 – Trust your body
The final tip is that if you follow these tips and precautions to improving your egg quality your body will create the best eggs possible for you. It means that you don’t need to waste your money on expensive miracle 30-day egg quality programs, egg quality diets which guarantee pregnancy and expensive supplements not based on evidence.
REMEMBER THESE ‘GUARANTEES’S PREGNANCY PRODUCTS’ AREN’T MIRACLES THEY DON’T WORK AND THE FEW ANECDOTAL STORIES OF THEM WORKING AREN’T EVIDENCE OF THEIR EFFECTIVENESS.
Do the best you can and trust your body. Then ensure that you are following our tips on how to conceive and you give yourself the best chance of getting pregnant possible, for you and YOUR fertility.
Good luck with your fertility and trying to conceive journey. If you are looking at how you can improve your egg quality then we think that these articles might be a good read for you next.
5 Evidence-based ways to improve male fertility – This article goes through the latest research and how YOU can improve your male fertility to help you get pregnant faster.
9 Tips on improving your chances of conception – These are tips you can use to give you the best chance of conceiving.
How to maintain a healthy relationship whilst trying to conceive – Tips on how you can make sure that you keep a strong loving relationship through the challenges of the fertility journey.
AMH Can it predict my fertility future? – An exploration of what AMH testing can and cannot tell you about your fertility now and in the future.
How to cope with infertility – 12 Strategies to help you cope with infertility and the trying to conceive journey