What determines egg health and quality?
It was once thought that the age of a women determined her ovarian and egg health. The older she was, the older and less fertile her eggs must be. But new studies indicate this may not be true. Even if you are in your mid 30’s to 40’s there are so many factors that have an impact on the health of your ovaries and eggs, and you can influence and change your egg health and quality by addressing your diet or what you eat, your environment, your exposure to chemicals and toxins and your stress levels which can disrupt hormonal balance.
Let’s look at the factors that influence your fertility:
Your blood circulation. You want to make sure that you are getting lots of fresh, oxygenated blood to your reproductive system to keep it healthy and one of the best ways to do that is with daily exercise. So how much exercise are you getting each day? Are you in a sedentary job sitting down all day, this isn’t good for ensuring healthy reproductive organs if they are compressed and cramped all day? Do you know how to and are you doing fertility massage to improve blood circulation to your reproductive organs? If not, start exercising and learn how to do your own fertility massage.
Do you have a healthy and regular menstrual cycle whereby you ovulate each month and you have the correct luteal phase length that will allow implantation to occur? If your cycles are irregular or you don’t ovulate the best way to balance your hormone and improve or regulate your cycles is with your diet and lifestyle choice. Losing or gaining body fat can also help as well as reducing stress levels. If you want to learn how to chart your cycle to find out if you ovulate, the length of your luteal phase and when to time intercourse to maximise a conception, make sure you sign up to my fertility charting program.
When it comes to egg quality asses your diet, environmental or lifestyle choices (including your sleep, stress levels, alcohol and caffeine intake or drug/medication consumption) to see if any of these could be impacting your egg quality or prematurely aging or damaging your eggs.
A fertile body is a healthy body. So let me ask you, how healthy is your body? Are you in peak physical and mental health to offer your baby a healthy environment for it to want to implant and grow in? If you are eating a poor diet, not exercising, you’re overweight, tired, stressed and you have any other health conditions, it is recommended that you work on improving your overall health first before trying to conceive.
What is your mindset like? The body follows the mind and your thoughts and emotions could be impacting your ability to become or stay pregnant? Do you constantly tell yourself ‘this isn’t working, I’m never going to become pregnant, my body is useless’, or do you use positive affirmations, guided imagery and visualisation/meditation to encourage your mind to guide your body in the direction of fertility and a healthy pregnancy?
Why Is Egg Health Important?
Egg health is one of the foundations of fertility and your ability to become and stay pregnant. The health of your eggs (combined with the health of his sperm), will determine whether fertilization and implantation take place and also whether you go on to have a healthy, full-term pregnancy. So, it is important to protect your eggs and make sure your ovaries and reproductive system are healthy by following a fertility diet, taking supplements and herbs, getting daily exercise, enough quality sleep and managing your stress while making lifestyle choices to keep your eggs healthy.
Your eggs are not too old!
A lot of women who are struggling to become pregnant are told by their doctors that their eggs are too old. These women are then given options that include IVF, using an egg donor or adoption. But before you head down the route of assisted reproduction, there are things that you can do to help support the health of your ovaries and eggs that will prepare your eggs and body not only for a natural conception but also for an assisted one if that is required.
Ideally these steps that you can take to improve your fertility must be implemented for at least 90 days prior to conception to have an impact on the health and quality of your eggs. This is because during the cycle of an egg’s journey towards ovulation there is a window of opportunity when certain factors can affect the health of your eggs that are preparing for ovulation.
It is during this time that your eggs are affected by both the healthy and unhealthy choices you are making when it comes to your:
- Diet and what you eat
- Blood flow and exercise
- Hormone balance
- Stress and sleep
- Lifestyle choices
Let’s look at exactly what you can do in a 90-day timeframe to improve your egg health and prepare the health of your body for conception and pregnancy.
Follow a fertility diet
The first factor to address is your nutrition.
You should be following a nutrient dense fertility diet in the 90 days before a conception attempt. During this 90-day time period when your egg is maturing ready for ovulation, what you eat will impact the health of your ovaries and your eggs either positively or negatively. You should be following a fertility diet that provides you will all the nutrients your eggs need while eliminating the processed foods, inflammatory sugars and food chemicals that can harm your eggs.
The top foods to include for egg health include:
- Plant based foods such as vegetables and fruits.
- Quality proteins such as salmon which is full of beneficial fats and red meat for protein and iron.
- Healthy fats for hormonal health including foods like pumpkin seeds and oils.
- Supplements that can boost health and fertility including a pre-natal vitamin and mineral supplement and nutritional supplements such as Maca, a greens powder and protein powder added to fertility smoothies.
Your diet and lifestyle choices can also damage your eggs so make sure you give up:
- Processed foods
- Trans fats
- Soft drink or soda
- Genetically modified foods
- Foods containing lots of food additives including artificial colours, flavours and preservatives
Balance your hormones
if you are trying to become pregnant naturally you need a regular cycle in which ovulation occurs with an adequate luteal phase length to allow a fertilized egg to implant. For this to occur your hormones need to be balanced. Balanced hormones are also essential for your egg health. Environmental factors such as your stress levels, sleep deprivation and the quality and quantity of sleep you get and the Western modern diet can all negatively impact your hormone balance. If your hormones are not balanced your menstrual cycle will be affected and ovulation may not occur making it impossible for conception to occur.
But there is a lot you can do to balance your hormones including:
- Start your 90-day preconception period with a fertility cleanse or detox to rid the body of excess or old hormones and reset your nutrition and your health.
- Use Maca in your fertility smoothies.
- Reduce your exposure to xeno-hormones by choosing organic food products that are less likely to contain added hormones, anti-biotics and pesticides and chemicals.
Take supplements to boost nutrient levels in your body
Next is taking the right supplements.As soon as you start trying to become pregnant you and your partner should both be taking a pre-natal vitamin and mineral supplement designed for pre-conception and pregnancy. This will ensure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs as well as the specific nutrients required by your developing embryo before you even know that you are pregnant.
Boost your antioxidant intake
Antioxidants are one of the most important components to include in your fertility nutrition and supplement plan to support your egg health. They help to protect your eggs from free radical damage. Free radicals can damage your egg cells including the egg cell’s DNA, which could affect the ability to become pregnant, remain pregnant and free radicals may also increase the chances of possible birth defects.
The egg is one of the longest living cells in your body and as you become older, your eggs are exposed to free radicals daily and this can damage your egg quality. This adds up over time. So, make sure you eat plenty of foods rich in antioxidants including colourful plant-based foods, your vegetables and fruits and ensure your pre-natal supplement contains antioxidants.
Take Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
You are born with all your eggs already in your body and over your lifetime these eggs will be exposed to free-radicals and your eggs will age as you grow older. Researchers believe that supplementing the diets of older women with mitochondrial nutrients such as CoQ10 may result in improved egg and embryo quality and better pregnancy outcomes.
Be aware though that there are two forms of CoQ10, ubiquinone and Ubiquinol. CoQ10 starts off as ubiquinone and is then converted within the cell to the more powerful type called Ubiquinol. As a woman ages, her body’s ability to convert ubiquinone to ubiquinol declines.
Most CoQ10 supplements are available are in the form of ubiquinone. Ubiquinol is a better choice as it is the most biologically active form of CoQ10 and does not need to be converted by the body. So, if you are a woman over the age of 35, CoQ10 ubiquinol supplementation alongside an antioxidant blend may help to improve your egg health over a few months’ time.
CoQ10 is also found in fish, pork and meat and in lesser amounts in vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.
L-arginine is an amino acid that has been shown in studies to increase ovarian response, endometrial receptivity and pregnancy rates in IVF patients who supplemented with large doses of L-arginine.
Foods high in L-arginine include turkey, pork, chicken, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, spirulina, dairy products, chickpeas and lentils, so include these foods in your fertility diet.
Eat plenty of fertility superfoods
Fertility superfoods are nutrient-dense foods that help to nourish the body with fertility boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. One of the best ways to incorporate fertility superfoods is to add them to your fertility smoothies.
Some of the best few superfoods to include in your fertility diet are:
- Maca – This helps to balance the hormones but does not contain any hormones itself. It will nourish and balance your endocrine system which is important when preparing for pregnancy and IVF because healthy hormonal balance contributes to healthy eggs.
- Royal Jelly – This is a fertility superfood which may help to increase your egg quality and quantity. Royal Jelly is the food that only the queen bee eats. The queen bee starts out as an ordinary bee and then she is chosen and fed royal jelly to become the queen bee who will go onto lay up to 2000 eggs a day. Royal Jelly should be taken daily for at least three months before a natural conception or IVF procedures begin. Don’t take it if you are or suspect you might be allergic to bees.
- A green supplement – This will provide you with antioxidants, minerals, and proteins that help to alkalize the body and nourish your eggs. Take two teaspoons of a greens powder daily in your fertility smoothies.
Other superfoods to add to your fertility smoothies include:
- Acai powder
- LSA – a mix of crushed linseeds/flaxseed, sesame seeds and almond
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Flaxseed oil and other cold pressed oils
- Cacao powder
- Protein powder which will help to boost your daily protein intake
- Flaxseed oil
- Greens – spinach, swiss chard, kale
Improve your blood flow and blood oxygenation
When you’re trying to become pregnant you want plenty of oxygen-rich blood flowing to your ovaries for good egg health.
Your blood flow less than optimal for fertility and reproductive health due to a lack of exercise (are you exercising daily?), a sedentary job (do you sit down all day?), dehydration (are you drinking at least 2L of water each day) and thick blood (dehydrated and therefore thick, slow moving blood).
To increase healthy blood flow to your ovaries and reproductive system make sure you:
- Drink at least 2 to 3 Litres of filtered water every day that is not bottled in plastic. Set an alarm to remind yourself to drink your water throughout the day until it becomes a habit.
- Ensure exercise daily. Exercise increases the blood flow in the body, transports fresh blood to all your cells, including those in your uterus, and helps to oxygenate your blood.
- Get regular massages and learn how to give yourself a fertility massage. Massage helps to bring fresh, oxygenated blood to the ovaries and removes old stagnant blood.
Reduce and then manage your stress and anxiety levels
Many women (and men), are stressed and anxious. Women who are constantly under stress produce prolactin, cortisol, and other hormones, which can interfere with or even block regular ovulation. So, stress causes hormone imbalances and anovulatory cycles.
The types of stress you may be under can range from traumatic, to ongoing daily stress that leaves you feeling tense and under pressure including deadlines at work, traffic jams and relationship issues. If you are trying to improve your egg health and you have irregular cycles or you don’t ovulate, then reducing your stress levels should be an immediate and major focus for you in the 90 day pre-conception period. Then throughout this time reducing your stress levels needs to become a daily priority. Think of it as your daily dose of ‘self-care’.
Here are some ways to ensure you give yourself some self-care. Schedule it in your diary.
- Go for a walk outdoors to top up your vitamin D levels and get some fresh air. Being out in nature away from artificial air and light is so good for the health and wellbeing.
- Take a warm bubble bath and listen to a fertility or relaxation meditation.
- Relax with a good book.
- Get a regular massage or have some acupuncture, kinesiology or reflexology.
- Drink some relaxing herbal teas, such as chamomile or peppermint before bed and then do a progressive muscle relaxation meditation to send you to sleep.
- Practice meditation for fertility, relaxation and do daily fertility affirmations in a relaxed state.
- Take deep breaths throughout the day or when you are in a stressful situation to re-centre and reduce your stress levels.
- Get fertility counselling if you want an impartial person to talk to and to help you navigate through the stress of infertility and fertility treatments.
There are many options to choose from. During this time make yourself a priority when you’re trying to conceive and create a stress management plan for yourself (and your partner), that you can put into practice right away.
So, to summarise here is a quick step-by-step guide to improving your egg health
Since the cycle of an egg and your window of opportunity is approximately 90 days this plan is set out in a 90-day plan from month 1 to month 3.
1. Do a fertility detox either with diet alone or with diet and detox supplements.
2. Take a good quality pre-natal vitamin and mineral supplement (your partner should do this as well).
3. Include fertility smoothies with superfoods in them such as greens powders, Maca and Royal Jelly.
4. Learn how to do your own fertility massage.
5. Implement a stress reduction plan and self-care plan.
6. If you are trying to conceive naturally, learn how to chart your fertility to understand your cycle, your fertile window and know when (or if), you ovulate.
- After your fertility detox transition to following a fertility diet.
- Implement a regular exercise plan to improve blood circulation and get good quality oxygenated blood to your reproductive organs.
- Assess your sleep and implement a sleep plan to ensure you get both quality and quantity of sleep.
1. Assess your environment for toxins or chemicals that may be impacting your hormones, egg health and fertility.
Supporting your egg health is so important when you are preparing for conception especially as you get older. There are so many steps you can right now to help support and protect your egg health, but they must be done consistently daily for at least 90 days prior to conception to have the best effect.
You can become pregnant. Work with me and let’s get you healthy, fertile and ready for conception and pregnancy.
If you would like to become pregnant or prepare your body for a natural or assisted conception, my natural fertility programs and courses are here.
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