When it comes to starting a family, the optimal timing is different for everyone. Regardless of age, there are a number of factors that come into play to give ourselves the best chance of conceiving. One of the most important factors to take into consideration, as women, is our egg quality.
Egg quality refers to not only the health of our eggs but also the health of our genetic code, or DNA, found inside our eggs. High-quality eggs have a better chance of fertilization, normal embryo development and overall pregnancy success.
As we age, the number of eggs and the quality of those eggs naturally declines (sad, but true!). Luckily, with the advent of technology we now have the option of‘freezing’ oureggs while they are young thereby “locking in” that quality, so even if we are 5 or 10 years older, the egg quality and hopefully embryo quality is younger than our chronological age – cool stuff, right?
When the time comes to start a family later in life, these eggs can be accessed and implanted thereby increasing the risk of a successful pregnancy.
Make sure you find a fertility specialist to walk you through the pros and cons for your unique situation.
So how do we make sure our eggs are in tip-top shape before undergoing an egg freezing procedure? Diet and certain nutrients can definitely play a role so let’s take a look at my top 5 diet and lifestyle strategies to consider before freezing your eggs!
1. Up your intake of Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 (or CoQ10) is an important antioxidant that helps to fight against free radicals and inflammation in the body. Free radicals, in excess, can impact on egg quality by altering DNA and impairing normal function.
Increases in CoQ10 before assisted reproductive technology, such as IVF, has shown to improve our egg’s response to stimulation, increasing the number of high quality eggs and an increase fertilization rate (Xu et al. 2018).
Foods high in CoQ10 include cauliflower, beef, oranges, chicken, soybeans and oily fish! Coenzyme Q10 is also common in supplements so it may be beneficial to chat with a fertility dietitian to help choose what one is right for you!
2. Adequate Zinc intake
Zinc is an essential mineral that’s critical for antioxidant pathways in the body and early embryo development.
Studies have shown that lower levels of pre-conception zinc can impair the ‘production line’ and alter the key processes that occur during egg fertilisation. This decrease in quality can impact on fertilization rates, embryo development and pregnancy outcomes (Diaz, 2013).
The best part is that zinc is found in a range of different food groups including plant sources from quinoa, cashews and lentils and animal based foods such as oysters, pork and crab.
3. Increase your Vitamin D intake:
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that we find in foods such as egg yolks, salmon, trout, sardines and mushrooms (when exposed to direct sunlight for a few hours. We also make our own Vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun, of course!
Research has shown those women who had optimal levels of Vitamin D in their follicular fluid, the fluid surrounding the ovaries and eggs, had better IVF outcomes and pregnancy rates. This may be due to Vitamin D’s role in regulating and producing important reproductive hormones responsible for fertilisation (Pilz et al. 2018).
As our main source of Vitamin D is actually from direct sun exposure on our skin it is important to ensure we are getting adequate sun exposure throughout the day, especially in the winter months.
As Vitamin D is a fat soluble, our body can storeexcess meaning toxicity can occur when supplemented in excess It is important to talk to a fertility dietitian to optimise your dietary intake and sun exposure to the recommended amounts, and have vitamin D dosages customised to you.
4. Opt for oily fish rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids that are found in our diets (you’ve probably heard me talk about them only 1000 times before!). They have antioxidant properties (which we have already discussed is important for sperm health) and help to decrease inflammation around your reproductive organs (Safarinejad, 2011).
Omega-3 fatty acids are a pivotal addition to any egg freezing diet as research has found a diet high in omega-3 may increase the reproductive lifespan of eggs and improve egg quality through supporting cell functioning and healthy DNA (Nehra et al. 2011).Super helpful when we are talking about locking in your best quality eggs!
Food sources of omega-3’s include oily fish such as salmon, trout, anchovies, sardines and mackerel. Plant sources including chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts also contain omega-3’s however they are more poorly absorbed compared to animal based sources. If seafood isn’t to your taste preferences, it may be beneficial to talk to a fertility dietitian about fish oil supplements!
Read more about the importance of Omega-3 fatty acids and fertility here.
You may also like to check your exact levels of omega-3s with a simple finger-prick blood test, find out more about omega-3 testing here.
5. Achieve a healthy weight range
Excess body weight can impact on many organs in the body, including the reproductive organs. Research has shown those women who carry excess body weight, are at increased risk of also carrying fat around their ovaries.
This can compromise egg quality through disruptions in the DNA, delays in egg development and alterations in the concentration of hormones in and around our eggs. These all have the ability to impair the quality of our eggs and reduce the likelihood of conceiving when the time comes (Purcell & Moley, 2011).
Achieving a healthy weight range can be challenging, so working with a dietitian to guide you through the process is recommended, without compromising your intakes of fertility friendly nutrients.
6. Get enough sleep!
Getting enough sleep is crucial for rest and repair but did you know that the sleep hormone melatonin is also important for fertility?
Melatonin is great at protecting your eggs from stressors and oxidative damage. Some research shows supplementing melatonin during IVF can increase pregnancy rates.
Foods to increase to support melatonin production include eggs, fish, nuts, mushrooms, and legumes and beans. Plus, having a great sleep routine and shooting for that 7-9 hours per night. Stop using screens for 1-2 hours before bed and make sure your room is nice and dark and relaxing so you get a solid night’s rest!
When should I start my egg freezing diet?
While we should be consuming these important nutrients all the time, research has shown that it takes roughly 3 months for egg quality to improve with changes in diet.
If you are contemplating freezing your eggs for the future, it is important to book in with a fertility dietitian sooner rather than later to get your eggs into tip-top shape before your procedure!
Read more about the optimal time to start a fertility diet here.
If you’ve thinking about freezing your eggs for the future and don’t know where to start in your egg freezing diet, apply to work with me one-on-one with me today and let’s develop a tailored plan to optimise your egg quality!