As females we are born with a set amount of “eggs”. These eggs remain in a state of cellular division until they mature and are released through the process of ovulation.
During each cycle, upon ovulation, if the egg is fertilized it is expected that it will most likely result in a pregnancy. This is why the majority of conventional fertility treatments focus on inducing ovulation, and ensuring fertilization. However, there is another important component of fertilization that plays an important role in whether or not the egg will develop into an embryo and result in a successful pregnancy. 'Egg quality' is a term which refers to the capacity of the egg to develop into a healthy embryo. This requires the right chromosomes as well as the right amount of chromosomes. It also includes the ability of the eggs to continue their cellular division once fertilized. This requires energy, energy generated by tiny organelles in the cell called mitochondria.
Egg quality generally starts to decline with age which is why more recently it has been implicated in age related infertility, recurrent miscarriages and failed IVF cycles. Poor egg quality can impact pregnancy in several ways. It can effect whether or not the egg has the capacity to develop into an embryo, it can impact implantation, and it can determine if the implanted embryo can survive the entire length of the pregnancy.
Interventions focused on improving the quality of the egg being fertilized are every bit as important as the treatments ensuring that fertilization occurs.
Naturopathic medicine specializes in providing interventions that target egg quality. Often times dietary strategies, nutrient supplementation and lifestyle factors can positively impact the quality of the egg.
- Nutritional Supplements: Supplements that support increased mitochondrial function and energy production will help support the egg during the necessary cellular division required to transition from oocyte to fetus, an example would be CoQ10. Melatonin, it is a reproductive anti-oxidant and has been proven to improve egg quality, fertilization rates and pregnancy rates.
- Optimizing Diet. There is a lot of research to support the impact of diet on ovulatory function as well as IVF success rates. Ultimately the research shows that a generally healthy diet decreases ovulatory infertility, improves IVF success rates and improves pregnancy rates. Regulating and maintain healthy levels of blood sugar plays a large role in proper hormone functioning. Greater consumption of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and plant protein as well as minimizing animal protein, and consuming full fat dairy as opposed to low fat, all seems to correlate with improved rates of pregnancy. Click here to read about food that may help improve fertility.
- Minimizing exposure to endocrine disrupting hormones(EDCs): Endocrine disruption chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals and substances that interfere with our bodies natural hormonal function. BPA-even small amounts can harm developing eggs which can compromise IVF success rates. It can also interfere with the necessary cellular division of the egg contributing to increased miscarriage rates. Phthalates, another EDC, decreases estrogen produced in the follicles which can interfere with egg development and maturation.You can read more about endocrine disrupting chemicals here.
The interventions listed above are just a few small pieces of the puzzle when it comes to treating infertility. Naturopathic medicine offers a wide range of possible treatments and support for preconception and pregnancy.
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