Many women wonder whether it is possible to improve egg quality. As we get older the quality of our eggs tends to decline. This is due to increased oxidative stress which is damaging to our cells including our eggs. Oxidative damage can be the result of toxin exposure from food, drink and environment. Or it can be due to psychological stress, illness and lack of antioxidants in our diet. Mostly it’s due to a combination of factors. PCOS and endometriosis can also predispose women to poorer egg quality.
What does poor egg quality really mean?
It means that the egg may not divide properly or it may be missing a chromosome. Either way if conception with a poor quality egg takes place the likelihood of miscarriage, malformations and congenital defects would be higher. This is also one of the reasons why babies born to older women are more prone to Down Syndrome than babies born to younger women.
However as I explain to my clients age related decline has more to do with accumulation of toxins over the years which result in greater oxidative stress and damage at the cellular level than actual chronological age. And this is a good thing as we can effectively address it with dietary and lifestyle changes and supplementation.
So what can you do to improve egg quality?
Most Reproductive Endocrinologists will tell you that there is nothing you can do to improve egg quality and sperm quality. Yet countless research over the last three decades tells a very different story.
At the latest World Congress of Fertility and Sterility in Germany scientists presented new research which found that you can improve egg quality by taking 3mg of melatonin.
Melatonin reduced oxidative chemicals in the follicular fluid which bathes the egg and is designed to nourish it. If the fluid contains free radicals they will damage the follicle making it less viable for pregnancy.
Melatonin is a natural and very potent antioxidant hormone. We secrete melatonin at night, when the pineal gland get’s a signal that it’s dark outside. When you lay down, your body starts secreting melatonin to send you to sleep, which is why we get sleepy if we stay lying down for too long.
Certain medications such as beta blockers can interfere with melatonin production and as we age we have a natural tendency to produce less melatonin. Also if you go to bed at midnight or later you are missing out on the benefits of your natural melatonin secretion which peaks at 9pm. You should be aiming to go to bed between 9 and 10 pm to get the most of your natural melatonin. Coffee after 1pm and alcohol in the afternoon and evening will also interfere with your melatonin secretion.
Melatonin also improves estrogen sensitivity at receptor sites on the ovaries and the endometrium (the womb) and can be of great help to menopausal women. This would also benefit women with PCOS to help them with ovulation and proper egg maturation.
Melatonin is not the only nutrient which can help improve egg quality. Vitamin E is also found in the follicular fluid and plays an important role in nourishing the egg. Zinc and iron are indispensable. Zinc for cellular division and iron to provide energy when the egg starts rapidly dividing after conception.