If you’re over the age of 35 and are starting or expanding your family, you may have some worries about your age, the health of your eggs and their impact on your fertility. Whilst the accepted wisdom is that we are born with all our eggs and there is nothing we can do to change that, there is an emerging body of research that suggests otherwise. Lifestyle modifications, diet and nutrient supplementation can improve the quality of your eggs. Whether you’re trying to conceive naturally, or undergoing IUI or IVF, prioritising your egg quality will reduce your risk of miscarriage and give you the best chance of having a healthy, happy baby.
Eggs and Sperm
It is true, women are born with all of the eggs we’ll ever have. The eggs wait in a state of suspended animation until a few months prior to ovulation, when the process of maturation begins. As the egg matures, the chromosomes within are copied, and the extras are discarded. This process is driven by mitochondria, the power generators of the cell. If the mitochondria lack vitality, or have been damaged, the cell division process is likely to falter, resulting in eggs with chromosomal abnormalities. In these few months before ovulation we can have a huge impact on those developing eggs. Supporting your body with acupuncture, herbs, nutrients and lifestyle can power up the egg’s mitochondria, helping them develop into good quality eggs and perfect embryos.
The nutrients you take for fertility support are important. For this reason, I strongly recommend practitioner only products. In particular, I check that nutrients are physiologically active to make sure your body can absorb them, and include the co-factors you need to get optimum activity.
A quick word about folate. Folate is the umbrella term for vitamin B9, an essential vitamin for many functions including DNA synthesis and cell repair. Folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. Folic acid is poorly metabolised by all people, but even more so by those with the MTHFR gene mutation. The active forms of folate are folinic acid, and 5 methyltetrahydrafolate (also known as 5 MTHF or levomefolic acid). For optimum DNA synthesis and cell repair, make sure your supplement contains one or both of these.
The health of your partner’s or donor’s sperm is also important, whether or not male factor infertility is an issue. Sperm is vulnerable to damage from lifestyle factors and toxins, and simple changes can protect sperm from oxidative damage and preserve male fertility. In my experience men can be reluctant to take supplements or seek treatment, but there is a very good reason to persist; research has shown that men who take antioxidant supplements have a 5 times higher chance of a live birth compared with men not taking supplements.
Other nutrients for egg and sperm health include CoQ10, Vitamin E, Vitamin C and choline. If possible, seek guidance from a practitioner to ensure that you are taking the best quality nutrients at the right dosages.
The Whole You – Beyond Eggs and Sperm
We all know that stress is bad for our health, but it is particularly toxic for fertility. Stress damages your fertility by diverting your body’s resources away from digestion and healing, reducing your vitality. In those few months where eggs are powering up to mature, maintaining a state of calm can ensure your body is putting lots of energy where it needs to be, into the developing ovum.
In particular, stress
- ~ promotes oxidation leading to cell damage in both eggs and sperm
- ~ disrupts hormones
- ~ disregulates menstruation
- ~ thins the uterine lining
- ~ reduces sites for embryo implantation
If you are undergoing IVF or other assisted reproductive techniques, stress management is essential to support you through the process and help you maintain optimal health.
It is important that we all find ways to reduce and manage our stress; not merely because stress promotes oxidation and damages cells, but because happiness and joy are essential for life. Creating and sustaining happy and harmonious lives is an important part of fertility treatment because it’s about the environment into which you are welcoming a child and growing into parenthood.
I use acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, nutritional supplements, as well as diet and lifestyle advice to help you move towards great health and vitality, wherever you are at in your fertility journey. As your practitioner I will work with you holistically, helping you create the optimum, fertile environment in which to welcome your baby.