Focusing on egg quality during the preconception period can play a fundamental part for women trying to conceive. So why does our egg quality matter?
Unlike men, who continuously generate sperm on a regular basis, women are born with all their eggs. This number will slowly decline throughout a woman’s lifetime, along with the quality of eggs as she ages. Whilst we cannot change the number of eggs, you can certainly improve the quality via your diet and lifestyle.
An egg takes approximately 3 months to mature and then ovulate. During this time it requires specific nutrients that can dramatically help this process. Hence why if you eat a healthy balanced diet and adjust any lifestyle factors that could be detrimental, you can improve egg quality and increase your chances of a healthy and successful pregnancy.
Current research largely supports a Mediterranean based diet for optimal fertility. This way of eating encourages the consumption of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, pulses, wholegrains and lean protein sources. It also excludes processed foods and vastly reduces the level of saturated fats via red meat and dairy products, which are consumed in moderation.
Think About Your Plate Composition
Stabilizing blood sugar levels is a core area when it comes to egg health. A poor diet high in added sugars and refined foods can increase levels of inflammation within the body and has detrimental effects on a hormone called insulin. This hormone helps remove sugar from our blood stream and takes it into the cells where our body can use it for energy. Having consistently high blood sugar levels can disrupt the balance of our other reproductive hormones, impacting ovulation, cycle length and the uterine environment.
With each meal make sure you are getting a mixture of carbohydrates + protein + a small amount of fat. Fats and proteins are much harder to digest and will blunt the blood sugar response. Your plate should consist of half non-startchy vegetables, a quarter of fibre rich complex carbs and the other quarter a lean protein source. To finish off, you should add 2 tablespoons of healthy fats.
Antioxidants are crucial for protecting our eggs against free radical damage and oxidative stress. Women who suffer from hormonally driven conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids etc can have higher levels of this type of oxidative damage and lower levels of antioxidants.
Lifestyle and environmental factors can also have an impact here, key drivers are pollution, toxins from plastics, smoking, alcohol & chronic stress.
An easy way to boost your antioxidant supplies is to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.The key here is to eat a wide variety of different colours, as each one contains different nutrients and antioxidants that can work synergistically within your body.
The main protein source in the Mediterranean diet is fish, which contains high levels of omega 3. This essential fatty acid is a potent anti-inflammatory that is particularly beneficial when it comes to egg health and fertility.
Fish is also rich in other fertility friendly nutrients including vitamin D, B6, iodine & selenium. The fish that are highest in beneficial omega 3 (more specially EPA and DHA) include salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring.
Reduce Caffeine & Alcohol
Consuming over 400mg of caffeine per day may have negative effects on our egg health. It can also impact the quality of our sleep, which is when our body does most of its repair. Remember that energy drinks, chocolate, breakfast teas and green tea all contain caffeine too and can add up across a day.
Heavy long-term drinking has been proven to cause widespread health concerns. It can also specifically reduce both the number and quality of our eggs, so should be limited when trying to conceive. Drinks should be consumed in moderation and always rehydrated with plenty of water.
Take a Quality Prenatal Supplement
Food should always be the first port of call when it comes to getting nutrients. However, taking a prenatal supplement for 3 months prior to conception can improve pregnancy outcomes. You may be depleted from specific nutrients, this is particularly common with long-term contraceptive pill use and a poor diet. There is also good evidence to suggest CoQ10 can improve egg quality by increasing energy production, which enables them to mature, fertilise and successfully grow.
Always consult a health care provider or nutritional therapist for personalised supplement recommendations before making significant changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Want further guidance? Book in with our fertility specialist Gail today to discuss a bespoke nutrition and lifestyle plan that can optimise your fertility journey.
Registered Nutritional Therapist
Gail Madalena is a registered nutritional therapist specialising in fertility, pregnancy and women’s health. Her expertise lies in hormonal imbalances, such as irregular cycles, debilitating PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, thyroid issues and sub-optimal fertility. Her goal is to reduce hormonal side effects and symptoms by addressing the root cause of the issue. Gail helps couples optimise your nutrition and lifestyle choices, supporting you on your journey to achieving a healthy pregnancy.