Terms like fertility and body literacy shouldn’t only be associated with trying to get pregnant, but with loving and learning about our bodies as women. Understanding and improving both egg health and quality are important aspects of body literacy, whether we’re trying to conceive or not.
Understanding Egg Quality
Before we begin our conversation about improving egg quality, it’s important that we understand that although we can’t magically increase the number of eggs in our reserves (a woman is born with all of the eggs she will ever have), we can promote and enhance the quality of the eggs we already have through a number of ways. When it comes to questions of fertility, most of the time we’re naturally and biologically already dealing with an issue of quality over quantity.
Our egg quality is affected, either positively or negatively, by a handful of factors. The integrity of our eggs decreases as we age, especially after age 40, and poor diet, stress, and lack of exercise, as well as hormonal conditions we may have like PCOS or endometriosis, all affect egg quality. Egg quality and health can also be impacted by toxins in consumer products (phthalates, for instance) as well as serious illness and low antioxidant consumption.
Diet, stress, lack of exercise, toxins, and hormonal conditions all affect egg quality.
Unfortunately, a woman might not even be aware that her egg quality is poor until she begins the journey of trying to conceive or faces multiple miscarriages or menstruation issues. Fortunately, egg health can be repaired and improved, sometimes within the 90-day window it takes for an egg to go from the initiation stage to the maturation stage that makes it an ideal candidate for ovulation. Furthermore, we don’t have to wait until period concerns or pregnancy issues arise to learn about our egg health and start optimizing their quality.
Investing in Egg Quality Begins with Investing in You
If poor choices in our environment contribute to poor egg quality, it naturally follows that better lifestyle choices can improve their quality.
Essentially, improving our egg quality starts with investing in ourselves. Taking care of ourselves not only physically but also mentally can repair and improve the integrity of our eggs which may have been damaged by factors like smoking, substance abuse, little to no exercise or active movement, poor diet, and overwhelming stress.
It only makes sense that when we’re stressed, our eggs would be too. Stress produces excess cortisol, making it harder for eggs to produce their protecting and regulating hormone, estradiol. Whether it’s taking up yoga or mindful meditation or a good bubble bath every once in a while, investing in self-care and decreasing stress can only be good for our egg health.
Taking care of ourselves physically and mentally can repair and improve the integrity of our eggs.
Oxygenated blood flow has also been shown to relate positively to egg health, meaning the more hydrated we are, the better. Blood flow can also improve with regular physical activity. In fact, women who are obese often have poorer egg quality and fertility than those who aren’t overweight.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, the food we consume can positively (or negatively) impact our egg quality. We’re fortunate to have entire lists and blogs dedicated to fertility-boosting superfoods, many of which have tons of benefits, not just for our eggs but our fertility overall. These include foods like leafy or cruciferous vegetables, legumes, eggs, avocados, berries, fish that’s rich in omega-3s, seeds, ginger, and turmeric. Many fertility blogs also advocate for giving up alcohol and caffeine for added benefits.
You can also add specific supplements to your daily routine, like Co-enzyme Q10, an antioxidant that promotes egg quality by boosting the function of mitochondria during egg maturation. It also prevents chromosomal defects. Alpha lipoic acid is another antioxidant that helps promote egg quality and reduces oxidative stress (which negatively impacts eggs).
Egg Health Is about More Than Just Conception
We might only become concerned with improving egg quality once we start trying to get pregnant, but the truth is, if we’re seeking to be fully body literate and empowered, knowledgeable women, we should care about our eggs long before then.
Why? As many of us know, our fertility and menstruation aren’t just about getting pregnant. Of course, when we’re more educated on our fertility we probably feel more empowered when it comes to the question of getting pregnant, but body literacy is empowering whether or not we’re on that journey. We as women know that our reproductive health is a complex, beautiful thing, and it’s often trying to send us messages or tell us things about ourselves. This is why period issues or pregnancy complications are so often mistaken for something that should be cured or fixed by pharmaceuticals or medical professionals, when in reality, we’re masking certain problems or not getting to the heart of the issue.
Our reproductive health is a complex, beautiful thing, and it’s often trying to send us messages.
You wouldn’t forgo studying before an important test, so why do we conceptualize egg health and quality as a pregnancy-related only issue? If you’re having shorter menstrual cycles or are potentially at risk for a hormone or fertility-related condition, in addition to engaging in the risk factors mentioned above, you might already be at risk for poor egg health and quality. And, if you’re naturally curious (even before you get to the baby-making stage), your practitioner can search for your egg quantity with an anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) test or antral follicle count to see your number of viable eggs. Don’t be disheartened though if your number is on the lower side. You can still improve egg quality no matter the number you have in your ovarian reserves.
If you’re focusing on egg quality because you’re trying to conceive, take this to heart: you don’t need thousands or even hundreds of perfect, abnormality-free eggs. All it takes is one to make a baby, and thankfully, poor egg health is something that women have proven time and time again can be repaired and improved.
And if you’re not trying to conceive, it’s never too early to start asking questions about your fertility. Your health, not just your future children, will thank you for becoming more body literate, and this kind of invaluable knowledge will only pay dividends in the long run.
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