My eggs are old? What does that even mean?!
Many women seeking to improve their fertility have been told by their doctor(s) that their eggs are ‘too old’ & the ONLY possible way to have a baby is through IVF & donor eggs or adoption
I find this diagnosis to be rather disempowering & completely untrue, if I’m being honest
The same, out-dated belief, that AGE is the only factor determining your egg health puts an even greater pressure on women to seek medical assistance over the age of 35
However, based on new research, we know that there is plenty we can do to improve our egg quality in just as little as 90 days
Why do we Care About Egg Quality?
Not only does egg quality affect fertilization & implantation, but it can also affect the viability of the whole pregnancy
Egg health is one of the foundations for healthy fertility & takes 90 days minimum to improve
Why 90 Days?
Our eggs lie dormant & protected for most of our lives
But in the 90 days before ovulation, it undergoes transformation where its no longer protected from environmental factors, including
- lack of blood flow / oxygenation
- hormonal imbalances
- nutritional deficiencies
- stress / oxidation
- toxic burden
This growth phase before ovulation is a critical time in which we can influence the quality of our eggs – both negatively and positively
In this post, I’ll take you through each environmental factor above & give you the tools to improve your egg quality & your chances of getting pregnant naturally
Regardless of your goals of conception (natural or otherwise), it remains very important to take steps to improve your egg quality
The steps you’re about to learn will not only improve your egg quality, but also will improve your overall health, hormones, pregnancy, and the future health of your baby.
Of course, in the world of fertility, there are no promises
But following a plan that is proven to improve your odds of conception naturally, and in doing so, improves your overall health and prepares your body for a healthy pregnancy, is the path that I recommend most highly.
#1 BLOOD FLOW & OXYGENATION
Oxygen rich blood flowing to highly vascularized ovaries is ESSENTIAL for good egg health, according to Jonathan Van Blerkom, a researcher of the Dep’t of Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology
O2-rich lood flow, however, can decrease due to dehydration, lack of exercise, & even emotional blocks
HOW TO IMPROVE EGG QUALITY WITH PROPER BLOOD FLOW & OXYGENATION
To find your optimal daily intake in ounces, divide your weight (in lbs) by 2
Start the day with a glass of water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice & dash of Himilayan sea salt to initiate hydration
PRO TIP: make sure water is purified & NOT from a plastic container. You can test your tap water quality by going to ewg.org/tapwater/ and entering your zipcode!
Exercise increases blood flow in the body & improves oxygenation of the blood
PRO TIP: find a form of full-body movement that you love to do outside in nature, like hiking & kayaking
This is one of the BEST ways to increase blood flow to the reproductive system! Find a massage therapist who specializes in fertility or Mayan massage. You can learn to do your own self-fertility massage – check out Hethir Rodriguez’s online program
PRO TIP: If trying to conceive, start performing the massage the day after you are finished menstrating up until the day you ovulate. Feel free to continue all month if you are not ttc that month
Common emotional blocks that women face in their childhood may decrease blood flow to the ovaries in adulthood. This is a prime example of how powerful the mind-body connection is!
If you’ve dealt with sexual trauma, emotional trauma, experienced an abortion or miscarriage, seek therapeutic help.
PRO TIP: Find a hypnotherapist in your area that specializes in fertility
#2 HORMONAL IMBALANCES
I’ve educated & coached women on hormone balance for a few years now – & what I’ve found is not only is it POSSIBLE through nutrition & lifestyle changes, but it’s fairly simple with the right methodology
WHY are hormones important when trying to get pregnant?
If hormonal balance is off, the intricate fertile cycle doesn’t operate correctly, the eggs may not respond & ovulation may not occur
HOW do hormones get imbalanced?
The most common factors causing hormonal imbalances include chronic exposure to: inflammatory diets, gut issues, over-active stress response & environmental toxin exposure
HOW TO BALANCE & NOURISH YOUR ENDOCRINE SYSTEM
1. EAT ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FOODS
You literally ARE what you eat! We can drastically decrease the age of our eggs by reducing the inflammatory foods we expose them to – especially during those fragile 90 days before ovulation
PRO TIP: when shopping at the grocery store, shoot for 2-3 fruits & vegetables of each color of the rainbow – ie RED: strawberries, radishes, red bell peppers; ORANGE: carrots, butternut squash, etc
2. IMPROVE GUT HEALTH
If our gut is leaky, our body is going to be riddled with not only foreign proteins & microorganisms, but also our own inflammation-promoting immune cells as they try to gun down the invaders
PRO TIP: drink a gut-healing smoothie 3-5x/wk including 5g glutamine, 20g collagen protein, marshmallow root, & aloe vera
3. CALM YOUR TITS!
Traumatic experiences in our childhood can actually be STORED in our nervous system, activating the same fight / flight response a hundred times per day with no damper
PRO TIP: try falling asleep to ‘sleep hypnosis for stress & anxiety’ – you can search for this on YouTube
4. AVOID XENOESTROGENS
It’s no surprise that our delicate hormones can be influenced by exogenous xenoestrogens (or estrogen mimicking molecules). If you experience heavy, crampy, clotty periods on top of excess water retention & PMS, you may be exposed to too many xenoestrogens along with poor liver detoxification
PRO TIP: ditch all the plastic/teflon in your kitchen, get rid of the air fresheners/candles/perfumes, drink from a glass water bottle, swap all your cleaning & skin care products to safer brands – we love @Puracy, @BranchBasics, @Honest & @Beautycounter
#3 NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCES
Again & again, women in their 30s are reaching out with the same question
my doctor said my eggs are bad & that the only option is IVF with donor eggs…but I can’t help but think there’s another way…PLUS we can’t AFFORD all these treatments!
Speaking of IVF – did you know that the success rate is less than 4% for women over 42?!
The emotional / financial / physical strain that IVF puts on a couple is horrifying
And that’s why I’m so passionate about getting this info to you – cuz there’s plenty of ways to improve egg health to get pregnant naturally OR improve your success rate at IVF
Our 3rd part of the series is out FOOD
What you eat DIRECTLY affects your health & fertility – either positively or negatively
Every time you eat something, it’s an opportunity to increase your fertile power! it’s up to you!
And please don’t ask if [insert fad superfood] will increase your fertility…it ain’t ONE food that is going to solve all your problems
Your health & fertility require a wide variety of essential proteins, starchy carbs, fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and healthy fats
What we teach inside of HFM (click our bio for more info on our signature fertility program for women in their 20s-30s struggling to get pregnant naturally) is the 4×4 rule
- 4 meals per day (to keep blood sugar & adrenal hormones balanced)
- 4 components of each meal (protein, carbohydrate, fat, green thingsssss)
Learning to implement the 4×4 rule keeps eating SIMPLE, CONVENIENT & super POWERFUL for improving health / body composition / fertility
Before we go, here are my top foods for supporting egg health during that critical 90 day period before ovulation, cuz even if you change NOTHING else about your diet – at least you will have a head start on these critical nutrients
MY TOP FOODS FOR SUPPORTING EGG HEALTH
- Dark leafy greens
- Grass finished beef / bison
- Wild Caught halibut / salmon
- Pasture raised eggs
- Organic / grass fed / whole fat dairy products
- Flax / pumpkin / sesame seeds
- Turmeric / Ginger
So who is going to add at least one of these foods to their diet this week?
#4 STRESS / OXIDATION / FREE RADICALS
As we’ve been learning through this entire post, egg quality is everything
But what are we really talking about when we refer to the ‘quality’ of the egg?
Typically, it’s the genetic / chromosomal stability of that egg
Chromosomal abnormalities in eggs have a profound impact on fertility because at every stage of development from fertilization onward, an embryo formed from a chromosomally abnormal egg has much less potential to continue developing (Fett, Rebecca)
For a woman struggling to get pregnant, this will look like an inability to conceive or a result in early miscarriage
In fact, most naturally conceived embryos are lost before a woman even knows she’s pregnant!
And only about a THIRD of fertilized embryos actually survive to become a baby.
I hate to say this, because it doesn’t ever help with coping through a miscarriage, but miscarriages are in fact normal & are required to keep our future baby safer
There are definitely nutritional, supplemental & lifestyle strategies we can implement to DECREASE the chance of chromosomal abnormalities – but how?
Remember those delicate 90 days before ovulation?
THIS is the period of time where we can eat & live in a way that keeps our eggs safe before fertilization!
One of the ways we can do that is by reducing stress.
Stress causes oxidation of fragile tissues in our body, including our eggs
The increased level of stress, increases cortisol which increases reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the ovary, putting the fragile chromosomes & mitochondria of the egg at risk for damage
HOW TO DECREASE EFFECTS OF STRESS, OXIDATION, & FREE RADICALS?
- Eat a diet high in antioxidants (healthy omega 3s from animal & plant sources, colorful fruits & veggies)
- Keep blood sugar balanced with the 4×4 rule
- Decrease / eliminate intense exercise
- Get adequate sleep
- Cut out caffeine, alcohol, Rx meds (with doc approval)
- Manage stress through breathing techniques, hypnotherapy, journaling, meditation, yoga
#5 DECREASE TOXIC BURDEN
Toxic burden refers to the total amount of toxic chemicals in your body at a given time
This has become a CRITICAL health and environmental problem
It affects us ALL & can cause health problems ranging from cancer & diabetes to infertility & autism
It even affects our babies – which are born already carrying a toxic load of as many as 265 different chemicals in their bodies, and breast milk is rife with environmental pollutantsThese toxins are coming from our foods, water, air, household cleaners, cosmetics, plastic containers, building materials, and about a million other places
So what do we do about it? I want to teach you about the 2 big toxic players that contribute to decreased egg quality & infertility:
BPA is commonly used in everything from plastics to paper receipts (despite YEARS of public attention about its health dangers)
Low exposures of BPA interferes with the final stages of egg development by altering meiosis – causing chromosomal abnormalities in the egg
There is also a link between BPA concentration in women & the failure of embryos to implant
And finally, BPA also disrupts the intricate hormone systems by decreasing ovarian production of estrogen & blocking the ability of estrogen to bind to its receptors
BPA most often enters the body when we consume food and drinks packaged or stored in materials that leach BPA
Phthalates are widely used in soft plastic, vinyl, cleaning products, nail polish, and fragrances
Just like BPS, phthalates comprise egg quality & the activity of hormones critical for fertility (which has been known by the FDA for decades now)
Unborn babies are also vulnerable to the toxic effects of phthalates including premature birth, reproductive abnormalities of baby boys, altered brain development/behavior, & altered thyroid function)
The most common place we are exposed to phthalates is in our bathroom via absorption & inhalation – cosmetics, fragrances, hairsprays, lotions, nail polish contain very high levels of phthalates
HOW TO AVOID BPA / PHTHALATES:
The good news is that there is a lot you can do to reduce your exposure & rapidly decrease the toxic burden in your body
1. Eliminate plastic(even those marked with BPA-free) from your kitchen, replace with glass/stainless steel/wood/ceramic
2. If you do buy plastic, avoid polycarbonate (hard/durable plastic marked with a ‘7’ in the triangular symbol).
3. Avoid plastic takeout containers, frozen food containers, and certainly don’t heat them up in the microwave
4. Look for ‘BPA-free’ canned goods. If it’s not labeles as such, you can assume there’s BPA
5. Avoid paper receipts and tickets which are typically coated with BPA
6. Swap out all cosmetics, skin care, body & hair care, & fragrances with safer/cleaner options => hint hint Beautycounter has you covered
7. Look for sneaky chemical names like di-n-butylphthalate (DBP) or diethyl phthalate (DEP) listed in ingredients of deodorant, perfume, hair products & moisturizers
8. Beware of feminine products like pads & tampons that likely contain synthetic fragrances & phthalates. Switch to 100% organic cotton or try a menstrual cup (Diva)
9. Throw out anything ‘vinyl’ like shower curtains, raincoats, yoga mats (check out @Gaiam), school supplies, place mats, makeup bags – if its a flexible plastic product, it probably contains phthalates! Replace with nylon, cotton, or polyester
10. Only use air fresheners, laundry detergents, fabric softeners & cleaning supplies that are ‘fragrance free’, or only made with plant-based natural ingredients. My favorite brands are @Honest @Puracy @BranchBasics
Not sure what is clean & what is toxic? Head to EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database
Overwhelmed? Don’t be, I make this clean-sweep process fun & empowering in Holistic Fertility Method – our signature coaching program for women struggling to conceive naturally (click the link to join our list – enrollment is open!)
1. Sugiura-Ogasawara M, Ozaki Y, Katano K, Suzumori N, Kitaori T, Mitzuntani E. Abnormal embryonic karyotype is the most frequent cause of recurrent miscarriage. Hum Reprod. 2012 Aug; 27(8):2297-303
3. Fett, Rebecca. “It Starts with the Egg.” Franklin Fox Publishing, New York, 2012.
4. Fujimoto VY, Kim D, vom Saal FS, Lamb JD, Taylor JA, Bloom MS. Serum unconjugated bisphenol A concentrations in women may adversely influence oocyte quality during in vitro fertilization. Fertil Steril. 2011 Apr;05(5):1816-9
5. Ehrlich S, Williams PL, Missmer SA, Flaws JA, Ye X, Calafat AM, Petrozza JC, Wright D Hauser R. Urinary bisphenol A concentrations and early reproductive health outcomes among women undergoing IVF. HUm Reprpod. 2012 Dec; 27(12):3583-92