We are talking about female human eggs, not your breakfast! While you may know you have them, most women don’t know much about their eggs and only a little about their menstrual cycle. Human eggs are fascinating, and the egg cell is critically essential to fertility and family planning. Egg quality and fertility is a topic many women will begin to research as family planning begins.
Basic Understanding Of The Female Egg And Ovary
First, females eggs are located in the ovary. Women have two ovaries that sit on either side of the uterus, and they are about the size of an almond. A woman’s ovaries can each have different sizes and shapes! Ovaries produce and shelter the eggs, or ova, and are the source of female reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Inside the ovary structure are follicles that hold the immature egg. During a menstrual cycle, hormones cause some follicles to grow and mature an egg within. Luteinizing hormone (LH) is a follicle-stimulating hormone that signals the ovary to release one egg, the most healthy one. When LH surges, the mature egg is released from the follicle. The release of an egg from the ovary is called ovulation. Many women track ovulation by using ovulation prediction test kits that measure luteinizing hormone surges to plan pregnancy.
Facts About Human Eggs
Did you know that the female egg is the only human cell you can see with the naked eye? The human egg size has a diameter of 100 microns, which is comparable to the width of a strand of hair. Women are born with the total amount of eggs they will have in their lifetime. This number can be around 20 million before birth as a fetus and 2 million at the time of birth. The female egg, once released, has a very short lifespan of only 12-24 hours. As you age, the quality of your ova can decrease because of changes to DNA during the division process.
Female Egg Quality and Quantity
Egg quality is measured by the number of eggs available in a woman’s ovaries. The quality and number of available eggs can determine fertility. When eggs are higher quality, the chances of it implanting inside the uterus and developing into an embryo are much higher. As technology stands today, the best indicators of egg quality are a woman’s age, hormone testing, and actually “counting the eggs” using transvaginal ultrasound. If you are curious about your egg quality and fertility, schedule an appointment at Cool Springs OBGYN to have medical testing.
- Age: As women age, their eggs can develop chromosomal abnormalities that can cause embryos to fail to implant, cause miscarriage, or cause chromosomal disorders, like Down syndrome. By age 35, around 50% of a women’s eggs will still be chromosomally normal.
- Estradiol (E2) Testing: Estradiol is a form of estrogen, and it is how the ovaries communicate with the brain. E2 levels should rise with the monthly cycle. Early high levels can mean the ovaries are responding too early causing egg quality to be decreased.
- AMH Testing: AMH is a hormone produced by the follicles in the ovaries. Having a normal range of this hormone in the blood can mean eggs are healthy. Too little can mean premature aging, and too much could indicate a hormone disorder like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
- FSH Testing: FSH stands for follicle-stimulating hormone, and this one is released by the pituitary gland in the brand. This hormone prepares eggs for maturity and aids in ovulation. FSH levels fluctuate during a cycle, but levels that fall outside the norm could indicate PCOS or a diminished ovarian reserve.
- Counting Eggs: Using transvaginal ultrasound, doctors can assess follicle count. This test takes place before ovulation, and the number of enlarged follicles that could mature an egg are counted. More follicles mean you should have a higher egg quantity available.
Can You Improve Egg Quality and Fertility?
If you are looking to improve your egg quality to aid in fertility, many tips revolve around improving your overall health. Exercising, reducing stress, improving your sleep patterns, and getting proper nutrition can all improve egg health. Some women opt to try supplements to improve their fertility.
Improve Your Egg Quality With Lifestyle Changes
- Don’t smoke: The chemicals in cigarettes are known to mutate the DNA in egg cells. When this happens, the eggs can become unsuitable for conception or the risk for birth defects may increase.
- Try not to stress: Stress can hinder or altogether halt egg production. When you get stressed, your body releases cortisol making it much harder to get pregnant. Look for ways to reduce stress like yoga, meditation, or even consider a career change.
- Eat healthy food: If you are healthy, so are your eggs. Stay away from fast food and highly processed foods. Instead, opt for greens, lean meats, vegetables, and fruit.
- Maintain a healthy weight: This can go both ways. If you are overweight, you may have reduced fertility due to increased oxidative stress and altered mitochondrial function. If you are underweight, you may have hormone imbalances that affect ovulation and can reduce your chance of getting pregnant. A healthy body mass index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 24.9. Calculate your BMI.
- Get active. Improving your blood flow will help oxygen-rich blood flow to your ovaries, keeping the egg cells healthy.
Improve Your Egg Quality with Supplements
- CoQ10: This supports energy transport in cell membranes and is an antioxidant. Older women can experience a breakdown in energy production in egg cells.
- DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone): A hormone that can increase follicular stimulation. DHEA production declines with age and can help women with Decreased Ovarian Reserve (DOR) or Premature Ovarian Failure (POF).
- L-Arginine: An amino acid that can increase circulation to the uterus and ovaries. This aids with the quality of maturing eggs and can improve the chances of implantation.
- Myo-Inositol: This can help improve glucose metabolism and can improve fertility rates in women with PCOS. Inositol has been shown to restore normal ovulation patterns.
- Melatonin: Melatonin has antioxidant traits which will improve egg quality. One study found that pregnancy rates in those with unexplained infertility were 30% higher in those taking melatonin.
- EPA/DHA Fish Oil: Fish oil can help regulate hormones, increase blood flow to the uterus, reduce sensitivity to the hormone prolactin, and increase egg white cervical mucus.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Jeffrey Lodge, call 615.690.6600. Cool Springs OBGYN is a leader in women’s healthcare in the Nashville metropolitan area.