Our first round of IVF was pretty rough. I didn’t respond to the stimulation as expected and in the end, we had solely five eggs. Of these, two deteriorated in the beginning of the ICSI process. The three remaining did fertilize but embryo development stopped completely on the second day.
Our fertility doctor said that poor egg quality was to blame, regardless of the fact I was 31 at the time.
Needless to say, I was devastated by the news. At the same time, it got me motivated to find out how to improve egg quality.
PCOS, age and a range of reproductive conditions could lead to poor egg quality. Poor egg quality will usually contribute to slow embryo development or it will keep the embryos from developing altogether.
When it comes to how to improve egg quality, there are two camps. Some fertility experts believe that nothing can be done. Others recommend supplementation, diet changes and a few other possibilities that can potentially make things better. The approach should be highly personalized and based on the condition that’s to be treated and the main cause of poor egg quality. Here are a few of the options that can potentially lead to improvements.
A High Protein, Low Carb Diet
Luckily, there is scientific evidence that a high protein, low carb diet can lead to significant improvement in egg quality. In order to get the job done, however, the fertility diet will have to be followed for a number of months prior to the IVF attempt.
The research was presented during the Annual Clinical Meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. According to the researchers, women who exceeded 25 percent of protein intake in their daily menu and whose carb intake was 40 percent or less had four times the pregnancy rates of women who did not undergo diet changes before and during an IVF cycle.
Protein plays a role in the formation of every bodily cell and there’s also some evidence it could aid embryo development.
If you’re thinking that you’ll have to consume large quantities of meat, you’re wrong. Protein comes in many forms. Some of the best meat-free sources of protein include:
- Plain yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Mixed nuts
- Nut butter
- Wheat germs
- Leafy greens
- Chia seeds
- Non-dairy milks
Get Rid of the Nasty Habits
This one is a no-brainer but the stress you’ll be going through during a fertility treatment can make it particularly difficult to kick nasty habits to the curb. Anyone who’s wondering how to improve egg quality, however, will have to make the effort.
Cigarette smoking is one of the worst things you can do to yourself while undergoing IVF stimulation. It decreases egg quality and it can even increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) due to the fact you’re taking hormones.
The same applies to alcoholic beverages. A glass of wine every now and then isn’t such a bad thing but it would be best if you could abstain while undergoing the treatment. Think of it this way – if the IVF attempt is successful, you’ll be pregnant pretty soon. At that time, you’ll have to quit smoking and drinking. Why not do it earlier and increase your chances of success?
Finally, you may want to consider quitting caffeinated beverages or at least decreasing their quantity. As already mentioned, undergoing the IVF stimulation is quite stressful. Doing serious lifestyle changes isn’t the best thing at a time of stress. Give yourself the chance to have a delicious cup of coffee every now and then but don’t go overboard.
This one is particularly important for obese women and the ladies that suffer from PCOS. Weight reduction and reaching a healthy BMI can have a profoundly positive impact on female fertility, egg quality and embryo development.
Once again, this is a long-term strategy that you’ll have to work on in the months prior to undergoing the IVF treatment. There isn’t a quick and easy solution for improving egg quality. Give yourself at least a few months prior to the big event. Improve your diet and begin working out. Not only will this strategy help your chances of success, it will also contribute to a healthier pregnancy when you get there (and I know that if you’re persistent enough, you will!).
Even minimal weight loss can be beneficial, especially in women with PCOS. Going down a few pounds has been known to trigger spontaneous ovulation, which means that it would even be possible to conceive naturally.
One thing to remember is that going on a fad diet is not the answer! You need healthy and gradual weight loss that can be sustained in the long run. A fad diet will produce water and muscle mass loss. This means the pounds will quickly be regained, which isn’t the best thing in terms of fertility.
Consider Natural Supplementation
Supplementation is a tricky one, I know. When you do basic research about how to improve egg quality, you’ll come across dozens and dozens of “miracle” products. All of these are supposed to be completely natural and all of them are supposed to lead to massive improvements.
This isn’t necessarily the case.
Supplements can be used for the purpose of improving egg quality. You have to know, however, which supplements can deliver results and which ones are backed up solely by marketing claims.
Various studies have been carried out concerning supplements that can potentially increase IVF success rates.
In one of the studies, researchers found out that 68.6 percent of 1,192 infertile women were vitamin D deficient. A vitamin D deficiency is easy to establish through a simple blood test. Vitamin D supplements do exist and they seem to have a positive impact. Another study has found out that women undergoing IVF who had higher vitamin D levels than other patients experienced a higher pregnancy rate following their IVF treatment.
Talk to your doctor about vitamin D supplementation. It’s possible to take too much of a supplement, which is why a consultation with a medical professional is vitally important.
Vitamin E is another one that seems to be linked to a higher percentage of positive outcomes after IVF procedures.
Evidence about the effectiveness of other supplements isn’t that clear. Studies about the positive effect on vitamin C are somewhat inconclusive. Still, you can easily increase the amount of vitamin C you’re taking in on a daily basis by eating more citrus fruits. It’s also unclear whether coenzyme Q10 can be used by women who want to improve egg quality. Coenzyme Q10 has been linked to improved sperm parameters in men but the effect on egg quality hasn’t been established yet.
Finally, you may want to consider upping your folate intake. A study involving 232 women suggested that the ones taking a folate supplement during their IVF procedure had a 20 percent higher birth rate than the one who weren’t taking the supplement.
Cope with Stress
The final tip is probably the most difficult one to accomplish when you’re wondering how to improve egg quality.
Psychological and physical stress has been linked to hormonal imbalances and other reproductive function altercations. Undergoing IVF can be incredibly stressful, which will eventually have a negative impact on the outcome. This is why stress management happens to be necessary, even if you think that it would be impossible to calm down during the process.
Meditate. Take a daily walk in the park. Do some light exercise while undergoing the stimulation. Spend quality time with your partner and focus on your relationship. Do everything that it takes to consciously take your mind away from the worries you’re dealing with. If necessary, build a support group or find a support community for women who are coping with infertility. Communicating with individuals in the same situation (whether you’re discussing the situation in person or online) can make things a whole lot easier.
This being said, I’ll be more than happy to communicate with you, answer your questions and offer some support. I’ve been through it all and I know the struggles that come with infertility. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you want a bit of reassurance – I’m here for you!