Many of our patients have been told they have poor egg quality or diminished ovarian reserve, or even poor embryo quality and this is the reason why they are having trouble conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term. While it is true that your egg health diminishes over time, it is not true that there is nothing that can be done to help support your egg health.
Even if you don’t have any specific ovarian or egg quality issues, helping support good egg health will help increase the chances your cycle will be a success!
The total time it takes for one egg to fully mature is about 90 days. It is during this window of time that we are able to have the biggest impact on egg health. So, we recommend that all of our patients looking to plan a treatment cycle take advantage of this time to prepare and consider acupuncture, supplements, diet, and lifestyle changes to help support their egg health.
Some of the main factors affecting egg health are:
- Diet and Nutrition
- Blood flow to the uterus and ovaries
- Oxygenation of your blood
- Hormone balance
Our three favorite ways to improve all of these factors affecting egg health are acupuncture (of course!), diet and exercise, and specific supplements.
1. Preconception Acupuncture:
Each of our treatment protocols (IUI, IVF, and medicated cycles) begins with the recommendation of preconception acupuncture. Preconception acupuncture is treatments given weekly in the 1-3 months prior to any fertility cycle specifically designed to support egg health and hormone balance.
By now, you probably know that acupuncture done alongside a fertility cycle can improve the chances of pregnancy for that cycle. What you may not know, is that acupuncture’s effect is cumulative, much like exercise. Each treatment and treatment cycle builds on the previous. Research done on fertility acupuncture supports this idea. Generally, the more acupuncture one receives, the better the pregnancy rates.
The reasons why acupuncture done in the months prior to a fertility cycle can have an impact on your egg health and the overall success of your cycle are:
- Dramatically improved blood flow to the uterus and ovaries: This increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, and facilities waste product removal, improving overall egg health.
- Hormone regulation: Many women notice changes in their cycles during preconception acupuncture: less pain, more regular ovulation, and normalization of menstrual flow.
- Reduced stress: Help your body and mind get ready for the upcoming cycle.
2. Diet, Exercise and Lifestyle:
Diet: A healthy diet can dramatically affect one’s fertility (and overall health!). Taking the preconception time period to focus on eating a clean, whole-food, plant-based diet can help improve egg health. Our favorite general fertility diet comes from a Harvard Medical School research study, but many diagnoses related to infertility, such as endometriosis or PCOS, call for some specialized nutrition.
Overall, the basics of a healthy fertility diet include:
- Low amounts of saturated fat: Choose plant based fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and healthy fats like those found in salmon and other fish.
- Local, grass fed, organic meats whenever possible
- Fresh fruits and veggies: We suggest eating foods from every color of the rainbow and making sure at least half of your plate is filled with veggies as an easy way to maximize your fruit and vegetable intake
- Vegetable protein sources: Try to replace one serving of meat per day with a vegetarian protein source like beans or tofu.
- Lots of fresh water: Try to avoid water bottled in plastic and stick to filtered when possible.
- Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread and pasta, etc instead of simple, white carbs,
- Iron rich plants: spinach, pumpkins, beans, tomatoes, and beets.
- Full fat dairy instead of low fat varieties.
- Minimal (or no) sugar intake: be sure to watch added sugars and high fructose corn syrup as they can hide in many unsuspecting foods as well as sugary drinks and desserts.
For women who have endometriosis, we recommend following an anti-inflammatory diet. For those with PCOS, a low-glycemic index diet is best.
Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise improves the oxygenation of blood and increased blood flow throughout the body. It is also a great stress reliever and helps maintain a healthy BMI, which is associated with higher pregnancy rates. Yoga is also a great way to strengthen your core and help reduce stress.
The preconception time is perfect for implementing a consistent exercise routine as exercise is commonly limited by your doctor during a fertility treatment cycle.
Lifestyle: There are many lifestyle habits that can have an effect on egg health. Our top suggestions are the following:
- Stop smoking
- Allow personal ‘down-time’ to meditate, read, or just relax.
- Listen to fertility meditations via Circle Bloom to help de-stress and foster a healthy body/mind connection
- Work to reduce stress and overwork as much as possible
- Seek counseling or a support group if you feel it is necessary.
3. Supplements and herbs: In addition to a good quality prenatal vitamin, there are some supplements that you can take that will help support egg quality and overall fertility. One supplement that has some evidence showing it’s efficacy is CoQ-10.
CoQ-10 is a vitamin-like substance (meaning our bodies can make some on their own) that functions within the energy production centers, called mitochondria, present in each cell. As we age, the efficiency of the mitochondria declines. The idea is that by supplementing CoQ-10, we can help support this energy production, which is especially needed for high-energy processes like the cellular division involved in egg production and embryo development. There is some preliminary research showing an egg-health benefit in mice and we await further research. CoQ-10 is generally regarded as very safe to take while trying to conceive and most experience no side effects. It also shows some promise in helping support male fertility as well.
Other supplements that we typically recommend are:
- Fish Oil: high in omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation in the body
- Probiotics: to support good digestion and absorption of nutrients.
There are also specific supplements and herbs available for other fertility related conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, luteal phase defect, male factor infertility, etc and will be recommended as needed.
Please call 865-315-3845 or contact us, we are more than happy to answer your questions or set you up for preconception acupuncture! Good luck with your cycle!