Improving Egg Quality
Improving Egg Quality
Can you improve egg quality? Yes! It is possible to improve egg quality. The most important factor in treating a woman with diminished ovarian reserve, the cause of poor egg quality, is a timely diagnosis via proper ovarian reserve testing. Ovarian reserve (OR) will continue to decline with time, so the sooner diminished ovarian reserve is diagnosed, the sooner effective treatment can begin, and we will have a better chance of improving the quality (and quantity) of the patient’s eggs, ultimately resulting in better pregnancy chances. When it comes to improving egg quality, the therapeutic interventions must take place while the immature eggs are going through the maturation process in the ovaries. Traditional IVF focused on the last 2 weeks of the months-long journey eggs go through, but at that stage, egg quality is already more or less determined. An effective treatment to improve egg quality must happen earlier. The image shows the length of time each stage of egg (follicle) maturation takes. The orange rectangle indicates the window where immature eggs can be treated for better-quality eggs for retrieval later in the cycle.
Target window for improving egg quality during folliculogenesis
Trying to improve egg quality at the end of the months-long process of egg maturation is not as effective as intervening at earlier stages of this process, indicated with the orange rectangle.
How to Improve Egg Quality: DHEA Supplementation
In 2004, CHR’s Dr. Norbert Gleicher and Dr. David H Barad introduced dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) supplementation as a form of innovative fertility treatment for diminished ovarian reserve that, since then, has demonstrated some remarkable results. In the last few years, DHEA fertility treatment has been accepted worldwide. DHEA (a mild male hormone that is converted to testosterone and estradiol in the body) has been shown to increase the quality of eggs as well as their number, by improving the ovarian environment where the eggs mature.
Diminished ovarian reserve, which is characterized by abnormally low levels of androgens in the ovaries, typically result in poor quality eggs. Supplementation with DHEA raises the androgen levels in the ovaries, and this “restoration” of androgen levels in the ovaries appears to affect egg quality positively. The improvement in egg quality then leads to an improvement in embryo quality, increased IVF success rates, decreased miscarriage rates, and decreased chances for chromosomal abnormalities in embryos.
How to Increase Egg Quality: CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10) Supplementation
Recently, we have started using CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10) supplementation in women with diminished ovarian reserve, in addition to DHEA, in order to improve egg quality. While DHEA works on growing eggs by providing an androgen-rich environment to mature in, CoQ10 is an important nutrient for the mitochondria, a small organelle that provides energy to cells--including eggs--in human body. CoQ10 levels, as well as the number of healthy mitochondria, decline as women age, and top researchers of CoQ10 fertility benefits believe that the age-related decline in CoQ10 levels contribute to the age-related loss in egg quality.
There are many women who have been advised by other fertility centers that, because of their poor quality eggs, their only chance of conception was with egg donation. But by combining DHEA/CoQ10 supplementation with a customized IVF protocol to improve egg quality, we’ve helped countless women improve their egg quality and successfully conceive with their own eggs. In fact, about one third of women who did not have enough good-quality eggs to attempt pregnancies with their own eggs at other fertility centers have successfully conceived and delivered, using their own eggs, after treatment at CHR!
How to Improve Egg Quality after 40
For women over 40, improving egg quality also involves getting the eggs out of the suboptimal ovarian environment earlier. In the last few years, CHR investigators have been researching the negative effects of premature luteinization on egg quality. In older women going through IVF, eggs appear to mature much more quickly than in younger women. Retrieving these eggs at the typical timing for egg retrieval, therefore, leads to the eggs being “overcooked” and of low quality. By removing the eggs from ovaries earlier and culturing them in the laboratory instead has resulted in more, better-quality eggs. We named this innovative technique HIER, highly individualized egg retrieval.
Foods to Improve Egg Quality?
There are plenty of foods and nutritional supplements purported to improve egg quality. While it’s understandable that patients going through IVF want to find ways to improve egg quality on their own, none of the diets, foods and supplements with egg quality claims, other than those listed here, have sufficient scientific backing. Patients looking for ways to improve egg quality for IVF should start with a discussion with a physician versed in ovarian reserve and egg quality.
Read more about Egg Quality
CHR is working toward developing a standard to measure egg quality...
Norbert Gleicher, MD, leads CHR’s clinical and research efforts as Medical Director and Chief Scientist. A world-renowned reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Gleicher has published hundreds of peer-reviewed papers and lectured globally while keeping an active clinical career focused on ovarian aging, immunological issues and other difficult cases of infertility.
Last Updated: February 5, 2019