PSA: Getting older is not the end all be all for your fertility. If you improve your egg quality as you age, you can preserve much of your fertility to still be able to get pregnant quickly and easily.
This post is your ultimate guide to, with everything you need to know about how to improve your egg quality in 30 to 90 days, consolidated into an actionable 3-step proven process.
Yes, age does matter because the number of eggs you have in your ovaries does drop as each cycle flows by. BUT age is not the ONLY factor – fertility is just as much about the quality of your eggs as it is about the quantity of your eggs.
This is incredible news because there is A LOT you can do to improve the quality of your eggs naturally – even after 30, 35 and, yes, after 40 years old.
One of the most frustrating things about trying to conceive (TTC) is feeling like you have no control over the process. Egg quality is one area where you can claim some control to improve your fertility and get your baby. I’m here to show you how.
The three-step proven process to improving egg quality includes:
- Follow the fertility diet (I can teach you how – it’s not hard!)
- Take select supplements
- Avoid the 4 Ps of environmental toxins
Let’s dive into everything you need to know – what egg quality means, why you should care and what you can do right away to improve your egg quality and your fertility.
What causes poor egg quality and why does it matter for fertility?
The decline in fertility with age is due to the decline in both the quantity and the quality of eggs in your ovaries – together known as your ovarian reserve.
While there’s nothing you can do about the decline in the quantity of eggs, there’s a lot you can do to improve the quality of the eggs you have.
Poor egg quality is caused by chromosomal abnormalities in the oocytes (egg cells).
Genetic information is carried in chains of proteins called chromosomes. As you age, you’re exposed to more and more oxidative stress that damages chromosomes – a.k.a. chromosomal abnormalities.
Chromosomal damage is a big deal because it impairs the genetic makeup for cell growth and division – i.e. reproduction. It’s the #1 cause of miscarriages – more than any other cause combined. Scary, I know, but stick with me here.
Although some of this oxidative stress occurs naturally, much of it is avoidable. Most chromosomal damage occurs in the ~90 days prior to ovulation when your follicles are maturing, giving you a window of opportunity for prevention.
This brings us back to all that you CAN do to protect your chromosomes from damage and thus improve egg quality to help you get pregnant more quickly and easily. Here’s everything you need to know:
Can you really improve egg quality in 30 days?
I’m here to give you the full information, so you can do everything in your power to enjoy a healthy pregnancy, sooner rather than later.
So, without sugar-coating anything: it is possible to see improvements in 30 days, but you really need closer to 90 days to realize true improvements in egg quality.
Here’s what you should understand: it takes about 90-100 days (each woman and her cycle are unique, so these are not exact numbers) for a follicle to mature for ovulation – this is when the chromosomes are most vulnerable to damage.
In 30 days, you can provide some protection to those chromosomes and you may see improvements. But, if egg quality is your goal, give yourself the full 90-100 days, following the steps to follow.
How do you test egg quality for fertility?
At this point, you’re probably wondering, ‘How do I know if I have good or bad egg quality?‘ Great question.
As explained above, although egg quality does decline with as you get older, age is not the only factor. You can be over 40 and still have great egg quality – i.e. very little chromosomal damage.
On the flip side, you can be under 30 and struggle to get pregnant because of chromosomal abnormalities. How do you know where you fall?
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive test for egg quality – it’s an estimate of potential embryo viability based on a few markers, including:
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH):
- Produced in your brain, this hormone tells your ovaries to recruit follicles to mature ovulation.
- Be sure to test FSH on day 3 of your cycle.
- Ideally, you want your FSH to be less than 9 mIU/mL.
- Estradiol is the dominant form of estrogen in your reproductive years and is produced by your ovaries.
- Like FSH, be sure to test estradiol on day 3 of your cycle.
- You want levels to be between 20-45 pg/mL. If higher than 60, this may falsely drive down FSH levels – so be sure to evaluate the two hormones together.
- Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH):
- This hormone is released by the follicles in your ovaries as they develop
- AMH can be tested at any time during your cycle.
- Although higher AMH is generally considered better – this it is not a very reliable test when evaluated alone.
- Women with low AMH can still get pregnant.
- Also note that low vitamin D levels can falsely drive down AMH levels, so if your AMH comes back low, be sure to also check your vitamin D status.
- Antral Follicle Count (AFH):
- A count of the number of follicles using an ultrasound image.
How do I improve egg quality for fertility – even after 40?
Now to the good part- how do I improve your egg quality- even after 30, 35, and yes, even after 40?
There’s a 3-Step Proven Process:
- Eat the Fertility Diet
- Take Select Supplements
- Reduce Exposure to Environmental Toxins
The Fertility Diet:
The fertility diet is the first step to improve egg quality naturally. The good news is that it’s not rocket science – the fertility diet is generally a healthy diet with tons (8-10 servings per day) of fruits & vegetables, quality proteins and fertility fats. (See the best sources of each of these food groups.)
How to get started:
1.Eat a rainbow of antioxidants every day.
Remember that oxidative stress we talked about above and how it damages chromosomes?
Anti-oxidants combat oxidation. They literally protect your chromosomes from oxidative stress. It’s pretty cool.
These powerhouse antioxidants are largely found in fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. As a rule of thumb, the stronger the color, the smell or flavor, the more antioxidants.
For example, think of the deep, dark green of spinach or kale compared to the pale green of iceberg lettuce. You guessed it, the former is the richer source of antioxidants.
For smell and flavor, think of herbs and spices like garlic, onion, ginger, rosemary, dill, turmeric, cumin…. the list goes on… make your food flavorful!
Eating for egg quality means making your food beautiful and delicious – you’re welcome 😉
Each color has different antioxidants, which is why I recommend eating a rainbow from fruits & vegetables daily. (See visual.) Your goal is to eat at least one fruit or vegetable from each of the following color categories, every day:
- REDS: tomato, peppers, grapes, cherries, pomegranate, raspberries
- YELLOW/ORANGES: cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers
- DARK GREENS: broccoli, kale, spinach, asparagus, arugula, brussel sprouts
- PURPLE/BLUES: blueberries, blackberries, purple cabbage, eggplant, red onion
- WHITES: onion, garlic, ginger, shallots, leeks
2. Eat for blood sugar balance
When I help clients to improve fertility and get pregnant, the first step is always blood sugar balance.
In general, chronically high blood sugar levels have been shown to impair fertility, making it harder to get pregnant naturally.
When looking specifically at egg quality, research suggests that lack of blood sugar control leads to fewer eggs retrieved, fewer eggs fertilized and fewer quality embryos.
I teach blood sugar balance in 3 simple steps, called the 3 F’s: 1. Fiberful carbs; 2. FFP balanced meals; 3. Fuel Frequently.
- FIBERFUL CARBS:
Eat carbs high in fiber. This means more whole grains, beans, corn, peas, sweet potatoes and fruit, and less white bread, rice and pasta, pastries and treats (to those of us with a sweet-tooth, this is brutal, I get it).
- FFP BALANCED MEALS (FIBER + FAT + PROTEIN):
Always pair those Fiberful carbs with Fat and Protein. Think FFP – Fiber + Fat + Protein at every meal and snack.
- FUEL FREQUENTLY
Trying to conceive is not the time for intermittent fasting. For blood sugar balance and fertility, eat FFP every 3-4 waking hours, starting within 1-hour of waking up.
Supplements to improve egg quality
I do not recommend the a pay-check’s worth of supplements to every woman who knocks on my (virtual) door. Instead, I always start with the fertility diet as the first step, then make supplement recommendations based on each individual’s needs.
That said, there are a few select supplements that are backed by solid science to improve egg quality and help you get pregnant.
The guidelines to follow are intended to help you start a conversation with your provider about what supplements might be a good fit for you. ALWAYS consult your provider before starting a new supplement.
Here are 4 supplements shown to improve egg quality:
For fertility, start with a high quality prenatal multivitamin that includes selenium, zinc, methyl-folate, vitamins B6 and B12. These nutrients have each been well-studied for their role in improving egg quality and preventing miscarriage.
What is CoQ-10:
Think of CoQ–10 * as your battery pack for your egg cells. Since follicle maturation and ovulation are energy-intensive, CoQ-10 is in high demand to provide the energy needed to make sure the process goes smoothly.
CoQ-10 is one of the most well studied supplements for egg quality and fertility because it provides double-benefits:
- As an antioxidant, it acts as a scavenger, cleaning up damaged cells;
- CoQ-10 also supports mitochondrial function (the energy source- often nicknamed the “battery” for healthy egg cells).
Why do you need to take extra CoQ-10:
Although your body can make some CoQ-10, production declines with age (if you’re over 35 and TTC, you’ll probably benefit from CoQ-10). Chronic inflammation, poor liver function and certain medications, like statins, can also deplete CoQ-10.
How do you get CoQ-10:
You can get some CoQ-10 from food sources – like organ meats and fatty fish – but few of us eat those foods on the daily. Since it’s hard to get from food alone, supplements are super helpful.
How to supplement with CoQ-10:
If you choose to supplement, follow these tips:
- Take the ubiquinol* form, rather than ubiquinone, because it’s 2-3x more absorbable;
- Dose: 200-300 mg taken twice daily is recommended.
- Take it before 3 pm because it’s energizing and could keep you up at night.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC):
Although most well studied among women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) to boost regular ovulation and improve insulin sensitivity, NAC* may also improve egg quality, even for those without PCOS.
NAC is a critical building block for glutathione in the liver. Glutathione is the body’s most powerful antioxidant, protecting your eggs from damage when exposed to toxins – think alcohol, medications, pollutants, etc.
With NAC, supplements are not your only option – you can also get NAC from onions and garlic – eat them daily. If you choose to supplement, here are some guidelines:
- Dose: 600-1800 mg/d* is typically recommended – always start with the smallest effective dose;
- Ideally, take NAC* on an empty stomach for optimal absorption;
- GI side effects like nausea or diarrhea can occur. If you experience these symptoms, try taking NAC after a meal.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Research suggests that all women trying to conceive (TTC) could benefit from omega-3s (DHA & EPA). These essential fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity and support natural progesterone production.
For egg quality, omega-3s are helpful for increasing blood flow. In mice studies, omega-3s have been shown to prolong reproductive lifespan!
If you eat cold-water, fatty fish (wild salmon, anchovies and sardines) 2-3x per week, then you may get plenty of omega-3s. Just be aware that mercury contamination in seafood can impair fertility, which is why many opt for supplements over fish.
I typically recommend 1,000-3,000 mg of omega-3s per day, but amount needed will vary based on your diet, inflammatory markers, cardiovascular health and health history, so be sure to consult your provider about how much is best for you.
There are other supplements you may want to consider, including:
- melatonin- especially if you have trouble winding down at night and/or are considering IVF;
- DHEA if your testosterone and/or cortisol is low;
- myo-inositol if you have PCOS or struggle with insulin resistance; and more.
However, your needs and barriers to fertility are unique. I recommend working with a provider (like me ;) on designing a supplement regimen best for you.
3. Protect your eggs from environmental toxins: Avoid the 4 P’s
Your eggs are highly sensitive to environmental toxins that are lurking in cleaning products, makeup, pesticides on your food, and even in the air you breathe.
You have likely heard of BPA, since nearly 150 studies have shown it disrupts healthy egg development and causes chromosomal abnormalities (see above).
You don’t have to say a word for me to hear your overwhelm. I get it.
It seems like everything these days is toxic, from cell phones to chewing gum. Take a deep belly breath and shake it off. I am going to break this down for you into a few simple steps to protect your egg quality. You got this!
(If you are gung-ho and ready to get these bad boys out of your life completely, see the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Removing Endocrine Disruptors).
There’s also good news – protecting your eggs from environmental toxins is not all about cutting out the good stuff. Remember that rainbow of antioxidants that we started with? Antioxidants fight off free radicals formed by toxins, minimizing the harmful impact from toxin exposure.
One more encouraging note: it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Any amount you can reduce exposure to these toxins, the better for your fertility, your future baby’s health and your overall health. Do what you can without driving yourself crazy.
Without further ado, how to avoid the 4 P’s to protect your eggs from environmental toxins:
Plastics are everywhere and trying to eliminate them from your life is not realistic. However, here are the low-hanging fruit, biggest bang for your buck, actions you can take to minimize the harm from plastics on your fertility:
- Avoid heating your food in plastic containers. Instead, use glass dishes* in the microwave and remove the plastic lid from your disposable coffee cup;
- Get a reusable water bottle to avoid plastic bottles. Get one made out of stainless steel* or glass* and make it your bestie that goes with you everywhere.
You probably won’t be shocked to learn that the chemicals sprayed on our food to kill weeds and bugs are also toxic to your eggs. Exposure to pesticides is linked poor fertility, ovarian disorders, miscarriage stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight and birth defects. YIKES!
When TTC, your safest bet is to buy organic produce. If organic is cost-prohibitive, at least get organic when you’re eating the skin. For example:
- If it’s an apple, strawberry or tomato – get organic;
- For an avocado, banana or cantaloupe, you can opt for conventional.
Don’t worry – you don’t have to single-handedly remove smog from the planet. But, your home environment is your domain, and the quality of the air in your home matters (a lot) for your egg quality and ovarian function.
Here’s what you can do to improve egg quality by cleaning the air in your home:
- Avoid perfumes and fragrances. They may smell nice, but they contain phthalates linked to premature ovarian failure, anovulation and follicle destruction – not so nice.
- Simple Solution: Replace air fresheners and perfumes with essential oils* for yourself and an essential oil diffuser* for your home.
- Grow houseplants. Living plants in your home are beautiful and they clean the air. Check out NASA’s list of the best plants for indoor air purification.
4. Personal Products
Think of your skin as a sponge. Whatever you apply, gets readily absorbed through your pores into your bloodstream. It’s just as important to make sure what you put on your skin is clean and toxin-free, as it is what you put in your mouth.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics provides a comprehensive “Red List” of chemicals to avoid. To make your life even easier, I recommend using a watchdog app like Think Dirty of the EWG’s Skin Deep to look up your personal care products and get a safety rating.
If it’s overwhelming to replace all your products, it’s ok to go slow. Replace one product at a time, starting with the ones you use most frequently. As you run out of something, replace it with something cleaner and safer. If you’ve made it this far in this blog, I’m sure you can handle trying a new shampoo 🙂
Now that you are eating the Fertility Diet, taking select supplements and reducing exposure to scary environmental toxins, you are well on your way to improving your egg quality in 30 to 90 days. It’s hard to be patient, but trust the process – you’re doing all the right things!
You got this!
If you’re frustrated that you’re still not pregnant or wondering what else you could be doing, know that fertility is not one-size-fits all.
I offer fertility nutrition coaching to give you custom solutions, designed for your unique physiology, to get you pregnant more quickly and easily.
Making a baby is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I can help.
SCHEDULE A FREE FERTILITY STRATEGY SESSION TODAY!
Here for you,