What are ‘healthy eggs’?
Healthy eggs are vital for a healthy conception. The viability of your eggs is one of the major factors determining whether fertilisation and implantation occur and whether the pregnancy will be viable and sustainable.
Ok, so we know poor egg quality greatly impacts our ability to conceive. But what exactly is ‘poor egg quality’?
In actual fact there is no scientific measure of egg quality and what constitutes good or poor. ‘Egg quality’ is simply a subjective measure and opinion.
It is true that the quality of our eggs reduce as we age and that this impacts our ability to conceive. Unfortunately this fact we cannot change.
We may not be able to control our biological clock, however there are things we can do to nurture our eggs through the maturation process to give them the best chance possible.
The 90 day life cycle of the egg
Female babies are born are born with approximately 1 million potential eggs, also known as follicles. These potential eggs/follicles slowly die off, reaching around 300,000 – 400,000 at puberty.
Each potential egg (or follicle) lies dormant in the ovaries until it receives the signal go grow and mature, a process called folliculogenesis. Around a hundred follicles begin this process however only one will become the dominant follicle and produce fully developed egg, which is then released at ovulation.
Although it has been long believed that females were born with all the eggs they would ever have, which slowly die off over time until reaching menopause, science is an evolving field and new research suggests that women may actually have the ability to produce more eggs during her reproductive years. Although yet to be confirmed, this theory which has already been proven in animal studies, gives hope that we can have an even greater influence over the health of our eggs and our fertility than ever before.
The growth phase for an egg in preparation for ovulation is around 90 days. During these 90 days, growth is influenced by both positive and negative environmental factors. This includes the amount of blood flow, amount of oxygen available, your nutritional status, hormonal balance and stress levels.
At the beginning of this 90 day period around one hundred potential eggs are released to begin the process of folliculogenesis. By the time the menstrual cycle commences around 3 – 30 follicles remain. During the menstrual cycle this is further reduced until one dominant follicle (or in rarer cases multiple dominant follicles) produces one mature egg for release at ovulation. So here’s what you can do to support healthy follicle development in the ‘survival of the fittest’ race to produce one spectacularly healthy egg!
Supporting the health of your eggs
Improving blood flow to the ovaries helps carry oxygen and important nutrients to where they are most needed. You can support healthy blood flow by
- Ensuring adequate hydration
- Lack of hydration can increase the thickness of the blood, reducing the ability to easily flow around the body. Ideally, you should aim for 2 litres/8 glasses of water per day.
- Healthy levels of activity positively influence fertility. One of the many ways in which it achieves this is by improving blood flow. The more we move, the more our blood is pumped around our body, transporting vital nutrients.
- Herbal supplements
- To complement the above practices you may wish to combine some simple herbal treatments to further stimulate blood flow. Ginkgo biloba and ginger are excellent herbs for supporting healthy blood flow.
What you eat during these critical 90 days can positively or negatively influence the health of your eggs. To help your body create the healthiest eggs possible it’s important to increase your intake of
- fresh, organic fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- nuts and seeds
- oily fish
- organic meats
and decrease your intake of
- soft drinks
- refined sugar
- processed foods
- non-organic meats
- genetically modified foods
If only we still all sourced our fruits and vegetables from the veggie patch in the backyard and our meat came from the free roaming cattle in the paddock.
Unfortunately today, most of our food purchases are made from supermarket shelves where little is known about their origin or the steps that have been taken to reach these shelves. Storage, transport and other preparatory processed can all impact the nutritional content of our food.
A healthy supply of nutrients is so important during this crucial phase that it’s difficult to rely on diet alone to ensure adequate supply. A good prenatal multivitamin should never be a replacement for a healthy diet, however it can provide a good baseline of essential nutrients to compliment a balanced diet.
A good prenatal multivitamin should not be a replacement for a healthy diet, but act as an ‘insurance policy’ helping to ensure a healthy balance of essential nutrients despite natural fluctuations in daily dietary intake. You may also wish to include a good antioxidant such as co enzyme Q10 to further support egg health.
Stress has a negative impact on overall fertility as well as egg health specifically. Stress produces excess cortisol, which can interfere with hormone production during the egg cycle and can also increase the production of free radicals. If you are trying to conceive, reducing your stress levels can greatly improve your chances of achieving a successful pregnancy.