A note to our readers
This blog post is specially written for people who are:
- Trying to conceive naturally,
- Preparing for IVF or in between IVF cycles, or
- Curious to learn more about egg quality to plan for your fertility road ahead.
We hope the following article can help you increase your chances of a successful pregnancy.
When trying to get pregnant, we’re often so hung up on ovulation tracking and having frequent sex, that we forget the most crucial factor: Egg quality.
Poor egg quality means a lower likelihood of a fertilized egg fully developing into an embryo for a successful pregnancy. You’d likely find it harder or take longer to get pregnant, raising the question of infertility. Those who may have gotten a positive pregnancy test may also be more prone to miscarriages down the road.
In this article, you’d learn what affects your egg health so that you can improve your egg quality.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended as medical advice.
Egg Quality 101: Let’s Start From the Basics 🥚
To understand the nitty-gritty of egg quality (hey, it rhymes!), we first need to learn about the ovarian reserve.
Your ovarian reserve measures the number and quality of ovarian follicles present in your ovaries.
These follicles have the potential to develop into high-quality egg cells, which is a good gauge of your fertility health.
Better egg quality = better embryo quality, aka the potential for the egg to become fertilized by the sperm. This would, in turn, enhance the chances of implantation in the uterus, where the embryo can be carried to full term.
Good Egg Quality vs. Poor Egg Quality
A normal egg cell with the usual number of 23 chromosomes in its genetic material is a fine example of good egg quality.
On the other hand, any egg cell with an abnormal number of chromosomes (scientifically known as “aneuploid”) is considered poor egg quality. In human-speak, the egg may have extra or missing chromosomes in its DNA.
It’s difficult for poor-quality eggs to be fertilized, and they often end up in miscarriages.
In fact, a 2018 study in the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences, highlighted chromosomal abnormalities as “the important cause” of recurrent miscarriages (read: you’ve miscarried two or more times).
Even if the chromosomally abnormal egg somehow survived to pregnancy, the child might experience genetic conditions like Down syndrome.
A diminished ovarian reserve, as a result of aging or certain health issues, is often the trigger for eggs to deteriorate. Later, we’ll share more about how egg quality usually deteriorates with age.
It’s a Numbers Game 📉
It’s a common misconception that egg production slows down as we age.
Here’s the thing: For people who ovulate, you are blessed with all the eggs you’d ever have in your lifetime.
That means there’s nothing you can do to increase the number of eggs you were already born with.
But how many eggs does a person who ovulates have?
A 2022 study breaks down the numbers:
- At the 20th week of gestation: As a tiny, growing ball of cells, you’re already carrying 6-7 million egg cells.
- At birth: As a newborn, your body holds 1-2 million eggs.
- At puberty: As you approach teenhood, the number of eggs in your ovaries dwindles to 300,000-500,000.
- In your late-30s: Around 37 years old, you’re now left with approximately 25,000 eggs.
- Near menopause: At 51 years of age, your body only has about 1,000 eggs left.
From millions to near zero at menopause, every person with a vagina will go through the same lifetime trajectory of egg loss.
The determining factor of pregnancy success thus lies in egg quality: A higher number of high-quality eggs naturally mean better odds of conception and a lower risk of miscarriages.
Instead of feeling anxiety, worry, or even fear around these facts, use them to bolster your fertility knowledge so you can plan the best route toward parenthood.
How Does Age Affect the Quality of Your Eggs?
Why do people who orgasm have a tougher time getting pregnant at an older age, say, 35?
As you'll remember from the previous section, the pool of viable eggs for pregnancy is now smaller in your mid-30s than in your mid-20s. It’s a hard truth to bear, but the climb toward conception gets steeper with age.
To paint you a fuller picture, we’ll share some statistics from the scientific literature:
- The likelihood of miscarriages spikes from 5.3% in people aged ≤30 years to 22.2% in those who are 40 years old and above.
- One study that tested over 20,000 egg cells found that chromosomal errors rose from 20% in people aged 35 to >40% in folks aged 40.
- Another study discovered a significantly high egg abnormality rate of 70% among those trying to conceive over the age of 40.
While it’s true that the danger of chromosomal abnormalities increases with age leading to poorer egg quality, it must be said that there could be large variations even within the same age group.
That’s because other factors like your lifestyle and environment can affect your egg health, too (more on that later).
Can a Woman’s Egg Quality Be Improved?
If you’re wondering whether you can improve your egg quality, the answer is, “It’s complicated.”
You can support and promote healthy egg quality with fertility-focused lifestyle changes, which we’ll share more in the following sections.
But there’s currently no cure (that scientists know of) to miraculously heal damaged eggs.
Even fertility treatments like in-vitro fertilization (IVF) are not miracle performers that can help you get pregnant if all the eggs extracted are of inferior quality.
How Can I Improve My Egg Quality To Get Pregnant?
You can improve your egg quality and optimize your reproductive health through a two-pronged approach:
- Support the mitochondrial function of your eggs, and
- Reduce oxidative stress that damages your eggs and overall health.
Ahead, we’ll share the changes you can make to your everyday routine to get you started on the road to better egg health.
A note from twoplus: Before embarking on the following ways to improve your egg quality, it’s in your best interest to consult a fertility specialist first, especially if you’ve been trying to conceive (TTC) for >12 months (if you’re below 35) or >6 months (if you’re above 35). Fertility testing is the simple first step to help you uncover any health conditions that may be acting as roadblocks on your conception journey.
How Can I Improve My Egg Quality Naturally?
Another piece of good news: With time and effort, you may be able to improve the quality of your eggs naturally. Many of the following tips can help enhance your egg health and overall health.
1. Take CoQ10 Supplements
CoQ10 (aka Coenzyme Q10) is a naturally occurring substance in almost every cell in your body, including the egg cells. It plays a crucial role in energy production within the mitochondria.
If you’re hearing “mitochondria” for the first time — or vaguely remember from long-ago biology lessons — think of them as the cell’s energy generators. When the mitochondria are in tip-top form, sufficient energy is produced to power every cellular process.
Unfortunately, as a woman ages, her mitochondrial function deteriorates, per a 2022 study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine and Biology. The egg cells are now less likely to produce enough energy for vital processes like maturation with the correct copies of chromosomes.
As a result, the closer you get to menopause, the greater the number of poor-quality eggs. There’s now a lower chance of your eggs fully developing for a healthy pregnancy.
Thankfully, there are ways to help boost your body’s declining CoQ10 reserves. One way to help your fertility chances would be to take a CoQ10 supplement, especially if you’re trying to get pregnant after 35 years old or have been trying for >12 months.
If you need proof of CoQ10’s prowess, just look at this 2020 study in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics. Based on its analysis of TTC folks going through fertility treatments, it found that:
- CoQ10 supplementation doubled pregnancy rates (28.8%) compared to the placebo group (14.1%).
- This effect was seen across people with and without fertility issues like poor ovarian response and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Another study for young women with diminished ovarian reserve also discovered that oral CoQ10 treatment “improves ovarian response to stimulation.” Compared to the no-treatment group, the CoQ10 group had:
- More eggs retrieved
- Higher fertilization rates
- A greater number of high-quality embryos
As an antioxidant, CoQ10 also has natural defenses against oxidative stress. By combating oxidative damage, CoQ10 supplements can help promote and support optimal egg quality.
Pro Tip: It’s best to take CoQ10 supplements at least three months before conceiving or undergoing fertility treatments. That’s because egg maturation before ovulation is a lengthy process lasting 80-90 days.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
You’re what you eat. Or, more accurately, your egg quality reflects what you eat.
A balanced and nutrient-rich diet provides the essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed for optimal reproductive health, including egg quality.
Related article: Fertility Diet for Women: 6 Foods To Eat When Trying To Get Pregnant
Go for nutrients like:
- Folate (or its synthetic form, folic acid)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Omega-3 fatty acids
These nutrients help reduce oxidative stress, support hormonal balance, and promote healthy egg development.
If you’d like to eat your way to better fertility, give twoplus’ Meals for Fertility a try. (Note: It’s currently only available in Singapore.)
Designed by Australia’s leading fertility dietitian and a Precision Nutrition-certified head chef, our fertility meal plan composes of all the healthy foods you need on your conception journey. Think leafy greens, whole grains, and lean meats packaged in delectable meals!
Plus, our convenient doorstep delivery allows you to enjoy nutritionally tasty meals at home, minus the meal preps and cleanups 😌
Pro Tip: Note that improving egg quality through your diet takes at least three months as your eggs mature to their full potential.
3. Address Hormonal Imbalances
When your hormonal levels are off-kilter, they can negatively impact your egg quality.
- High prolactin levels may stop the production of other key reproductive hormones — luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This, in turn, disrupts ovulation and can cause irregular periods.
- Low anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) levels indicate a low egg reserve. In human-speak, that means you have fewer eggs than the average TTC person, which further limits the likelihood of good-quality eggs.
You can address hormonal imbalance through healthy lifestyle modifications. Cue many of the tips shared in this article, such as a balanced diet and saying no to smoking (see next section).
Related article: Hormone Imbalance: Signs, Symptoms And What To Do About It
In later sections, we’ll cover other positive lifestyle changes to help you rebalance your hormone levels.
4. Avoid Smoking and Vaping
Chronic or heavy smoking behavior has been scientifically linked to a diminished ovarian reserve. Smoking and vaping also disrupt hormonal balance.
As you’d recall, hormonal imbalances can interfere with normal egg development and maturation, elevating the risk of poor egg quality.
To worsen the matter, cigarettes and vaping devices are notorious for causing oxidative stress within your egg cells.
Cellular and DNA damage leads to the double-whammy of inferior eggs and abnormal chromosomes — a systematic review and meta-analysis found that pre-pregnancy smoking increased the risk of miscarriages.
That’s why it’s in your best interest to cut out the cigars and vaping devices 🙊
5. Cut Back on Caffeine and Alcohol
Heavy coffee drinkers (read: 3 cups or more per day) probably aren’t going to like this piece of advice to improve their egg quality (but it’s for your own good!):
- Limit your caffeine intake to <200 milligrams per day (or as advised by your healthcare professional).
The same goes for alcohol consumption.
- A 2018 study highlighted that those who drank ≥4 servings of caffeine per day increased their risk of miscarriages by a worrying 20% 😔
- Another study echoed similar sentiments: Heavy pre-pregnancy coffee intake of >300 milligrams per day hiked up the “risk of a subsequent fetal loss by 31%.”
- Research found that drinking more than 84 grams of alcohol per week while undergoing IVF treatments “decreased pregnancy rate” by 7% in women-identified folks. (Btw, similar findings also applied to men-gendered folks!)
In essence, it’s okay to indulge in the occasional cup of joe or glass of wine as long as it’s within the limits set out by your fertility doctor.
6. Maintain a Healthy Weight
A high body mass index (BMI) (aka obesity or excess weight) significantly elevates the likelihood of insulin resistance, which can negatively affect egg quality.
- A 2022 study explained that “insulin resistance can lead to the production of smaller eggs or delayed production of eggs.”
- Another study highlighted that poor egg quality has also been reported in “women with high BMI (≥30).”
Do what you must to bring down your BMI and maintain a healthy weight for optimal egg quality. This could be as simple as carving out 30-35 minutes of your everyday schedule for exercise. Or eating a healthier diet to lower the number on your weighing scale.
If you need guidance in this area, speak with your primary doctor or a personal trainer and dietitian to determine the best weight loss program for you.
Related article: 6 Exercises To Prepare Your Body For Pregnancy
7. Keep Your Stress Levels in Check
This is your sign to start addressing your stress levels to improve your egg quality, especially if they are chronically high.
A 2016 study in the Journal of Biomedical Science explained that:
- Higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, dampen estradiol production (it’s a form of estrogen produced in the ovaries).
- Consequently, cellular functions in the ovarian follicles are affected, worsening your egg quality.
In the interest of healthier egg quality, find ways to reduce your stress levels. For example:
- Stay active
- Eat healthy
- Practice stress management techniques, like meditation and yoga
- Keep in touch with family and friends
- Get help with a licensed therapist, if you need to
You can also check out our post for more tips on how to manage your stress levels while trying to conceive.
What Are My Chances of Improving the Quality of My Eggs?
Let’s do a reality check-in: Improving your egg quality doesn’t happen overnight (as much as we would like it to be). There are other factors affecting your personal timeline, with age being a key one.
Improving Egg Quality Before 35
Improving egg quality before 35 is generally more achievable because time is on your side. At a younger age, you have a naturally higher fertility potential.
To further maximize your pregnancy chances, follow the above tips on how to improve egg quality. Your health is also uniquely you, so speak with a healthcare professional or fertility specialist for personalized advice.
Above all, remember that good things take time 😉
Improving Egg Quality After 35
Improving egg quality after the age of 35 can be challenging, although there’s some reassuring scientific data to indicate it isn’t all doom and gloom:
- New research highlighted that the average reproductive lifespan is now extended from 35 to 37 years old.
- A Denmark-based study found that 72% of TTC folks aged 35-40 got pregnant within a year, only slightly lower than 87% of TTC folks aged 30-34.
- For people who never got pregnant before, the chances of conceiving within a year ranged from 66% for those aged 34-35 to 25-35% for those aged 38-44.
In other words, your chances are not entirely zero if you’re trying to improve your egg quality to get pregnant after 35.
Of course, speaking with your doctor first is still highly recommended as they are the best person to guide you through your conception journey. This could be in the form of fertility-enhancing lifestyle changes, medications, or clinical treatments like IVF.
A Healthy Lifestyle for Healthier Egg Quality
For the most part, healthier egg quality begins with a healthy, fertility-focused lifestyle.
Seemingly minor on their own but when put together, the transformative power of positive lifestyle changes can hugely impact the quality of your eggs for the better.
So, it’s time to start with the right supplements, foods, and behaviors to give your eggs the best fighting chance. This is especially critical if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than a year now (if you’re below 35) or more than six months (if you’re above 35).At times, a fertility-focused lifestyle needs to be complemented with medical guidance. If that sounds like you, it’s best to book an appointment with a trusted, licensed healthcare professional to give you a leg up on your conception journey.