Whether you’re deep into an IVF journey, or you’re just starting to try to conceive, egg quality is crucial for the health of your future pregnancy and child.
The term “egg quality” refers to the quality of the DNA in your eggs – something that can’t be measured with hormone tests or ultrasound. Egg quality issues can contribute to repeat pregnancy loss, failure to implant, or embryos that fail to develop in an IVF process, and can influence the health of the pregnancy and the health of the baby.
Your own genetics and age are the immovable objects in determining egg quality. But the environment also plays a significant role, and that’s the part you can influence in your daily life. To that end, here are our top seven tips for improving egg quality.
Tip #1: Nourish yourself well with a healthy diet
The food you eat can influence egg quality through the nutritional content itself, through increasing or ameliorating oxidative stress on the eggs, as well as through epigenetic factors. Consistently eating a wide variety of nutrient-rich whole foods can make a big difference for some individuals.
In East Asian medicine, we believe strongly in eating the foods that are right for your body, specifically. Thus, we don’t have a single egg-quality diet that we would recommend for every patient.
But there are a few rules of thumb that apply to most patients trying to improve egg quality:
- Keep your blood sugar regulated by avoiding white rice, white sugar, and white flour.
- Avoid highly processed food.
- Eat plenty of antioxidant-rich foods to undo oxidative damage – this includes berries, beans, kale, broccoli, artichokes, pecans (and other nuts), pumpkin (and other) seeds, tomatoes, carrots, squash, and… dark chocolate! Yum!
Tip #2: Manage Stress
Psychological stress can have an impact on egg quality in a few different ways. Cortisol, a key hormone in chronic stress, can influence egg quality by impacting estrogen levels. Stress can also make it challenging for you to choose the lifestyle that is supportive of egg quality – for example, it’s hard to motivate to cook a healthy meal when you’re feeling blue. Finally, stress affects circulation, and healthy blood flow to the ovaries is crucial for the health of your eggs.
There are so many ways to manage stress, and it’s a very personal choice to find what works best for you. Whether you choose to manage stress with deep breathing, mindfulness, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, or exercise (or, better yet, some combination!), these efforts will help ensure your ovaries get the resources they need to grow healthy eggs.
Tip #3: Get Enough Sleep
Not getting enough hours of sleep per night can impact the reproductive hormones in women – which can influence egg quality. Generally, you want to aim for about seven to eight hours per night to help optimize fertility.
Of course, we know that for those who struggle with insomnia, sleep can be painfully elusive. Some of our main tips for sleeping well include turning the screens off two hours before bed, keeping lights low in the hours before bed, and creating a wind-down routine that feels supportive (Herbal tea? Guided meditation? Short stretching routine?).
Acupuncture and herbal medicine can also be supportive of improving sleep, as can supplementing melatonin. While we don’t want patients to take melatonin for years on end, a few months of small doses of melatonin per night has been shown to improve egg quality (and, of course, sleep!).
Tip #4: Take Supplements
Melatonin isn’t the only supplement that can be supportive of egg quality. In general, the supplements that we focus on for egg quality tend to support all the efforts we’ve outlined above: antioxidative effect, blood sugar regulation, hormonal health, and sleep.
Your body isn’t the same as the next patient’s, even if you’re both working on egg quality issues. So not every supplement is good for every patient – you should always work with a licensed healthcare provider to make sure you’re taking the right dosage and that you aren’t taking anything that could be hurting your body. That said, here are a few of our favorite supplements for egg quality:
- CoQ10: A molecule that exists naturally in our bodies. It is a powerful antioxidant, and it helps ensure that the egg has the energy it needs to develop appropriately.
- Resveratrol: A polyphenol found in red grape skins, red wine, peanuts, and berries. It acts as an antioxidant and promotes healthy circulation. It can be especially helpful for patients with PCOS.
- Vitamin E: Another antioxidant that can also help support uterine lining and implantation.
- Inositol: A compound that supports egg quality by helping to regulate insulin and blood sugar. It’s especially useful for patients with PCOS or other issues associated with blood sugar regulation.
East Asian herbs can also be formulated to help support egg quality. In order to address egg quality, we most frequently focus on “nourishing blood” and “tonifying the Kidney” – although other factors in the body can come into play. East Asian herbs should always be formulated to fit your body’s pattern, so talk to a licensed acupuncturist to find the herbal formula that will support your body best.
Tip #5: Exercise Regularly
Exercising on a daily or near-daily basis can help support egg quality in a number of ways. Primarily it helps promote circulation throughout the body, including to the ovaries and uterus. It also helps regulate blood sugar and decrease cortisol and can help with sleep and stress. What’s not to like about that?
Any form of exercise can be supportive of fertility efforts. That said, it’s crucial to avoid overexercising, which can trigger reproductive hormone suppression in women. We usually encourage patients to aim for about 30 minutes of exercise four or five days per week.
Tip #6: Avoid Harmful Substances
A key effort to influencing the quality of your eggs is being thoughtful about the chemicals that you are exposed to on a daily basis. Some of the chemicals cause oxidative stress, which negatively impacts the DNA in your eggs. We, of course, encourage patients to stop smoking, stop recreational drug usage, and avoid alcohol.
But chemicals in common household products also have the potential to disrupt your hormones and cause oxidative stress. One of these endocrine disruptors is plastic in the kitchen (water bottles, plastic Tupperware, plastic utensils, etc.), which can leach into the food and be absorbed into the body – and did you know that cans are often lined with plastic?
Another household culprit is a group of chemicals called phthalates. Phthalates are commonly found in scented products (sprays, candles, air fresheners, soaps, personal hygiene products, etc.), cosmetics, and packaging. Whenever possible, choose “phthalate-free” options.
Finally, if you’re being exposed to fumes, smoke, particulate matter, or other harmful chemicals at work, please make sure to wear the appropriate safety gear. Respirators, gloves, and goggles don’t just protect you, they protect your eggs!
Tip #7: Don’t Forget About Sperm Quality
Working on sperm quality doesn’t influence egg quality. But we want to make sure that any high-quality egg that your body produces is fertilized by a sperm that is also high quality – to increase the odds of conception. From an odds perspective, if both sperm AND egg quality is low, the likelihood of a healthy embryo and healthy baby decrease significantly.
If you’re conceiving with a partner or known donor, consider encouraging them to implement many of these same efforts as well. While sperm health can have some unique nutritional, supplementary, and exercise needs, there is plenty of overlap between the two.
Bonus Tip: Book an Appointment With Flourish
Acupuncture and East Asian medicine can be a great support for your efforts towards egg (and sperm) quality. Acupuncture can help to promote circulation, decrease stress, reduce inflammation, and promote sleep – all crucial parts of egg quality. Whether you are planning for IVF or conceiving naturally, we’ll put together a plan that supports your personal needs. Click here to book your initial appointment, or you can follow this link to book a free 15-minute consultation with one of our licensed acupuncturists to find out more about how we can support you.
Although some aspects of egg quality are predetermined, you shouldn’t feel powerless when it comes to egg quality. These dietary and lifestyle changes can help to support the genetic quality of your eggs, whether you’re heading into an IVF retrieval or just starting your conception journey.
Published: Nov 1, 2022
Updated: May 3, 2023
Flourish Integrative Health
Fertility Acupuncture | Santa Rosa
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