How to Improve Egg Quality

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Many women wonder whether it is possible to improve egg quality. As we get older the quality of our eggs tends to decline. This is due to increased oxidative stress which is damaging to our cells including our eggs.

Oxidative damage can be the result of toxin exposure from food, drink and environment. Or it can be due to psychological stress, illness and lack of antioxidants in our diet. Mostly it’s due to a combination of factors.

Improve egg quality

PCOS and endometriosis can also predispose women to poorer egg quality.

What does poor egg quality really mean?

It means that the egg may not divide properly or it may be missing a chromosome. Either way if conception with a poor quality egg takes place the likelihood of miscarriage, malformations and congenital defects would be higher. This is also one of the reasons why babies born to older women are more prone to Down Syndrome than babies born to younger women.

However as I explain to my clients age related decline has more to do with accumulation of toxins over the years which result in greater oxidative stress and damage at the cellular level than actual chronological age. And this is a good thing as we can effectively address it with dietary and lifestyle changes and supplementation.

So what can you do to improve egg quality?

Most Reproductive Endocrinologists will tell you that there is nothing you can do to improve egg quality and sperm quality. Yet countless research over the last three decades tells a very different story.

At the latest World Congress of Fertility and Sterility in Germany scientists presented new research which found that you can improve egg quality by taking 3mg of melatonin.

Melatonin reduced oxidative chemicals in the follicular fluid which bathes the egg and is designed to nourish it. If the fluid contains free radicals they will damage the follicle making it less viable for pregnancy.

Melatonin is a natural and very potent antioxidant hormone. We secrete melatonin at night, when the pineal gland get’s a signal that it’s dark outside. When you lay down, your body starts secreting melatonin to send you to sleep, which is why we get sleepy if we stay lying down for too long.

Certain medications such as beta blockers can interfere with melatonin production and as we age we have a natural tendency to produce less melatonin. Also if you go to bed at midnight or later you are missing out on the benefits of your natural melatonin secretion which peaks at 9pm. You should be aiming to go to bed between 9 and 10 pm to get the most of your natural melatonin. Coffee after 1pm and alcohol in the afternoon and evening will also interfere with your melatonin secretion.

Melatonin also improves estrogen sensitivity at receptor sites on the ovaries and the endometrium (the womb) and can be of great help to menopausal women. This would also benefit women with PCOS to help them with ovulation and proper egg maturation.

Melatonin is not the only nutrient which can help improve egg quality. Vitamin E is also found in the follicular fluid and plays an important role in nourishing the egg. Zinc and iron are indispensable. Zinc for cellular division and iron to provide energy when the egg starts rapidly dividing after conception.

What are your thoughts? Is poor egg quality a concern for you? Are you taking proactive steps to improve your egg quality? I would love to hear from you!

© 2010 Iva Keene and Natural Fertility Prescription

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About Iva Keene MRMed. ND.

Iva Keene is an internationally recognized natural fertility specialist and naturopathic physician who has helped thousands of couples with fertility problems on their path to pregnancy.
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36 Responses to How to Improve Egg Quality

  1. Amy says:

    Iva, I am very interested in the idea of melatonin as I have been thru 2 failed IVF attempts and am 42 yrs old. I was reading online about some studies on melatonin and in some cases though melatonin has the opposite effect with fertility. Some women taking melatonin have had issues with their once regular cycles actually stopping. I also read that melatonin is being used in a new birth control pill. Any thoughts? Can I get my melatonin level checked pretty easily?

    • Iva Keene says:

      Hi Amy,

      Thanks for your comment.

      The jury on melatonin scientifically speaking is still out as for every positive study you’ll find a negative one. I’ve spoken to one of the world’s leading melatonin researchers from Switzerland Dr. Pierpaoli about the effectiveness and safety of melatonin. According to him melatonin is safe and has no toxic side-effects and can be taken even by women in their 90s. Melatonin is beneficial for menopausal women due to it’s estrogenic effect on the body. So I guess excess melatonin in young women could be used as an oral contraceptive instead of administering estrogen.

      In older women however, it’s not only useful for it’s estrogenic effect but also for it’s antioxidant effect. The older we are the more polluted our bodies become if we don’t detox regularly, eat a clean diet and live in a pristine environment and don’t stress (the ideal scenario which today is next to impossible). Melatonin mops up and neutralizes free radicals in the follicular fluid surrounding the egg and protects it from oxidative damage — which can lead to malformations and miscarriage.

      If you’ve had two failed IVF attempts I suggest that you optimize your egg and your husband’s sperm quality before the next try. Yes, melatonin can help you but melatonin is not the only antioxidant you need.

      It takes 116 days for sperm to mature and 100 days for follicles to mature from their primordial form. Ideally both partners should be optimizing their egg and sperm health for the duration of the 120 days. This way the free radical exposure which can damage the egg and sperm is minimized and your body is given the nutrients it needs to form health eggs and sperm.

      Let me know if you have any questions.

      Warm regards,

      Iva

  2. Trupti says:

    I am suffering from EFS(Empty Follicle Syndrome).Do you suggest IVF or Natural Fertility Prescription?

    • Iva Keene says:

      Hi Trupti,

      Thanks for your message.

      I’m a firm believer in addressing the cause naturally and giving the body a chance to heal itself first. IVF may also not be successful if there are no eggs to be retrieved. I suggest that you follow my age-related infertility protocol to improve your egg quality first before opting for IVF. You can find articles under this topic in the blog.

      Warm regards,

      Iva

  3. Deola says:

    Hi Iva, I, v really enjoyed your fertility tips. Thanks so much for your advice. Please, What can be the cause of seeing my menstrual period after 35days instead of 29 days. It was very heavy and there were bigger clots than usual and it also take longer to . Do you think i was pregnant? Your response will be appreciated. I also love to pstopurchase your book but, presently I cannot afford it. Thanks once again.

    • Iva Keene says:

      Hi Deola,

      Thanks for your message.

      It is possible that you had an early miscarriage, and if you suspect that you may have been pregnant I suggest that you go to your gynecologist for an ultrasound to make sure all of the placenta has come out as otherwise it can get infected. If it’s just once off and you weren’t pregnant I wouldn’t worry. If it keeps recurring have it checked out by your doctor. Usually longer cycles are due to long follicular phase which is due to low estrogen and slow follicle maturation. This could be due to stress, medication, weight loss, changes in diet or a condition such as PCOS. Clots and heavy bleeding on the other hand are more associated with fibroids and endometriosis. In either case if you have three consecutive cycles like this (and you are not pregnant and miscarrying) you should have it looked at by your doctor. If you suspect that you are pregnant (a very early pregnancy test can confirm this even before your period is due) and you keep miscarrying you should have a fertility workup and have your hormones tested and your husband/partner should have his sperm analyzed at a fertility clinic.

      The NFP program will have a partial payment option very soon which will make it more affordable.

      Let me know how you go and if you have any further questions.

      Warm regards,

      Iva

  4. Nancy De Jesus says:

    Hi, Iva. I have had approx. 4-5 IUI’s. Unfortunately, unsuccessful. I have attempted three IVF’s. The first one, my HCG level was high enough to be pregnant; it was a bit over 2 and I had to go back for a second test to double check and it was lower. It was categorized as a miscarriage although I went for a blood test only 14 days later after the IVF. My FSH has ranged from 13 to 18, and my estradiol levels have ranged from 70 to high 90’s. I have no blockages and my uterus is clear. I am 42 1/2 years old. I have been trying since a little prior my 41st birthday. What is your opinion?

    Thank you so much for your cooperation.

    P.S. I would like to excuse myself if I mispelled any of the medical terms.

    • Iva Keene says:

      Hi Nancy,

      Thanks for your message.

      I definitely think your should optimize your general and egg health prior to next IVF/IUI procedure. Both your FSH and estradiol seem too high for ideal quality eggs. Another thing to consider is your husband’s sperm. Women whose partners have abnormal sperm are at a higher risk of miscarriage. So he could also definitely benefit from a 120 day sperm health optimization. With the right adjustments to your diet and lifestyle and supplementation you could improve your hormonal parameters within 120 days.

      Let me know if you’ve got any other questions.

      Warm regards,

      Iva

  5. Maria says:

    Hi Iva
    Was wondering to get the link of the new current research from Germany who found that egg quality can be improved by taking 3mg of melatonin. How long you suggest to take it for any positive reactions?

    I asked myself, how many RE do believe on the new research that Melatonin reduced oxidative chemicals in the follicular fluid which bathes the egg and is designed to nourish it.

    The classic statement of all doctors: Eggs are old as you are. There is no way to do anything.
    Rejection of IvF clincs, by the age 40+, high FSH and E2, baseline values of course.

    Myself, had 2 failed IUI and 2 failed IvF attempts
    1IvF: 3 empty follicles;
    2.IvF: were cancelled from us, based on the lower E2 result.
    Now we are going for the final 3. IvF attempt w/the same doc. who already gave me up.
    He tried to convince us to stop and to look into the egg donation now.
    General speaking, such a manner of treatment of a doctor is simply rude.
    I do not know what will be next when I will fail again?!

    Since 2008, have done a couple of things such as different supplements, organic diet etc., but nothing helped so far. Only time pasted quickly.

    You suggested to Trupti that she should follow your “age-related infertility protocol” to improve her egg quality first before opting for IVF. How does it look your age-related infertility protocol and for how long is this program then ? Would it be to a specific age group only such as itl mid 30’s?

    Thank you for listening to that.
    Any respond from you or from other women will be appreciate!

    Regards,
    Maria.

    • Iva Keene says:

      Hi Maria,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’m sorry to hear about your experiences with IVF and your doctor. Many REs believe there’s nothing you can do to improve your egg quality. However there are studies to prove that you can improve your egg quality and you can conceive even if you are 40+. And there are not only studies but countless of success stories around the world and some you can read in our success stories on this site.

      The NFP program goes for 4 months i.e. 120 days. Melatonin like most hormone therapies should be used for a minimum of 90 days – the length of time it takes to produce a new batch of hormones.

      Many couples who come to see me have tried special diets, supplements, IVF, IUI, acupuncture etc… There is a right and a wrong way of using this approach and it’s not as simple as eating organic food and taking a multivitamin or a fertility supplement you can buy online. Each individual is different, each couple is different and each fertility case is different and unique and needs specific nutrients and doses which are unique to their case. Similarly it’s not just about what you eat and which supplements you take, but also what you need to remove from your environment and your day-to-day.

      You can get all this information, including how to maximize your IVF success and more in the NFP program. The program can be used up to any age providing you are still ovulating (you have some ovarian reserve) and your BBT is equal to or above 36.3 degrees Celsius during the follicular phase. And if it’s not there are ways to rev your metabolism naturally to get you to produce healthy eggs. For info on the program go here.

      Alternatively I can have a look at your case if you’d like a second opinion and a detailed fertility analysis including a prescription for practitioner grade supplements which are of higher quality than the OTC variety. For more info go here.

      Let me know if you have further questions.

      Warm regards,

      Iva

  6. Melissa says:

    I’ve been experimenting with wearing a sleep mask at night while sleeping except during my ovulatory phase, or when I want to ovulate. And during that phase, I remove the mask and open the blinds and turn on a night light in my bedroom and a hall light until I ovulate. What do you think about this “night-lighting?” Would this increase my melatonin? I’m trying all kinds of stuff! Fertility yoga, adbominal massage, acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology, moxa, herbs, diet, exercise, gosh, what else is there?! And now nightlighting! I’m trying to shorten my long follicular phase (about 21 days give or take) and lengthen my luteal phase (about 10-11 days).
    Thanks!
    Melissa

    • Iva Keene says:

      Hi Melissa,

      Thanks for your message.

      You are doing lots of great things but once-off none of these can have a lasting effect. What you need is a proven and tested plan.
      The lunaception method has some merit but we live in such a polluted world with so much light toxicity and EM radiation that I think it has little effect unless you move to an isolated place without modern technology and sleep under the open sky.

      I can recommend the NFP program to you because you’ll learn what you need to do to optimize your hormone levels for better egg quality. The longer the follicular phase the poorer the egg quality. The shorter the luteal phase the less time there is for endometrium to thicken and nourish the fertilized egg. So there is definitely a lot you could be doing from the program to improve this situation. Alternatively I’d be happy to look at your case and give you tailored advice. For more information on both NFP and fertility analysis go here.

      I look forward to helping you get pregnant.

      Warm regards,

      Iva

      p.s. going to bed at 9pm and not drinking coffee after 1pm and alcohol at night will improve your melatonin levels without much further intervention.

  7. Tania says:

    Hi Iva,
    Thanks for the information on melatonin! I’m hoping to have another baby. Had my first at 38 and have since had 4 miscarriages (the most recent a few months ago). I’m 44.
    My FSH is 6.8 my Estradiol is 46.6 but my AMH is .5 ….
    I’ve also read that melatonin can decrease FSH and increase prolactin. I’m 44 so I’m not a young woman, but my FSH is only 6.8. Do you think it would still be a good idea to take 3mg of melatonin? I’m also taking zinc, vit e, selenium, a prenatal, fish oil and vitex….
    Thanks and kind regards,
    Tania
    ps I only went to an RE to humor my OBGYN. I don’t want to go the IVF or IUI route. I know I can get pregnant… just have trouble staying pregnant.

    • Iva Keene says:

      Hi Tania,

      Thanks for your message. Many women seem to self prescribe vitex. Vitex has a very potent action on the pituitary-ovarian axis, meaning that it affects hormones at the master level and not just locally. As such Vitex should be taken with care and only under supervision of a trained herbalist or naturopath or someone who is actually qualified to prescribe herbal medicine. Vitex can also disrupt hormonal balance if taken when it’s not indicated and if taken indefinitely. Vitex should not be taken for longer than 3 months at a time.

      Good quality supplements are very good but they alone will not be able to address the cause of miscarriage if something else is present.

      You could be exposing yourself to EM radiation, a toxic food or personal care additive, heavy metal toxicity, etc… Your husband’s sperm may also be the contributing factor. It only takes 120 days to affect sperm health for better or worse. A past pregnancy is not a guarantee that the sperm is optimal today. Other factors can be altered immunity, metabolic issues etc..

      As you can see there are many factors at play and you should investigate it further.

      You can find detailed info on miscarriages and how to prevent them in the NFP program. Alternatively I can have a close look at your case and give you a detailed report on what could be causing the miscarriages and how to prevent them in the future. For more info on both go here.

      Warm regards,

      Iva

      p.s. you could take melatonin but I suggest looking at other factors I mentioned first.

  8. Shashan says:

    Hi, iva.

    I’m 30 years old this year. Went through 3 failed ivf. My doc said I have premature aging ovaries, thusthe egg quality are poor. The best embryos I got is only grade 2 embryos ( 5 cells without fragmentation, 6 cells with some fragmentation) all 3 cycles no frozen eggs. Each cycles only have 2 embryos for transfer.
    My doc prescripted DHEA to me in 2nd ivf, it helped to improve egg quality, but it didn’t shown better result in 3rd cycle. My husband have morphology problem. I’m loss now and not sure what to do.
    Is melatonin really able to help? I’m on royal jelly now, as for hubby is on COQ10, selenium, multi vitamin and maca.

    Hope u can give me some advice.

    Thank u

    Best regards,
    Sylvia

  9. MARPSJR says:

    2 part question:

    1) Would it be safe to take melatonin when breastfeeding?
    2) Also I have heard about taking inositol with the melatonin – do you have any views on this? Hear that the two in combination are effective to improve quality.

    • Iva Keene says:

      1. It’s best not to take any hormonal supplements while breastfeeding.
      2. Adequate intake of B group vitamins is necessary for optimal health, but
      I’m not familiar with the synergies between these two.

  10. Hoannguyen says:

    Hi Eva,
    I have been interested in all the articles you send us. I was diagnosed with PCOS half a year ago and I had a test on progesterone and estradiol. The result is progesterone:0.9, estradiol: 310 (the standard of estradiol is no more than 120). I understand that there is a severe hormone imbalance between progesterone and estradiol here. Can you suggest me some foods or supplements to increase progesterone and decrease estradiol? I am so worried. Another thing, can women with PCOS still observe regular periods? My period is alarmingly too frequent. I would be appreciate if you give me some advice! Thanks for your great work!

    • Iva Keene says:

      Hi Hoannguyen,

      Thanks for your comment.
      Avoid animal products and dairy but you also need
      to look at you exposure to xenoestrogen which can be
      contributing to your high levels of estradiol.

      I can help you identify those in a personalized fertility
      analysis and you can find lots of information on this topic
      in the NFP program here: http://natural-fertility-prescription.com/products/

      Warm regards,

      Iva

  11. mariy says:

    Hi Iva,
    thanks so much for hope assurance you have been given.
    Pls am in my later 30’s. My doc told me that i have ovary inactive.
    After so many drug taken, it is still the same response.
    Can melatonin give me hope.

  12. Joyjira says:

    Hi Iva
    I’m from Thailand. I’m only 31 years old. I have PCOS and i have been thru IVF for two times. Both are failed. The first time after my embryos trasfer, i rested for 4 days and my HCG level was 41 and then dropped on the next day so my doctor decided to stop the process. On my second times,i rest for 10 days and i got 0 HCG. I asked my doctor why i failed allthough I had 3 blastocyst embryos for both of the transfer process. He said no reseach confirm exactly what the factors are. I would like to know what I should do or prepare before the next embryos transfer to get success.
    Thank you very much inadvance.
    Joyjra

  13. Leena says:

    Hi Iva,
    I enjoy reading your articles as getting pregnant is being my major focus now.
    I’m 31 this year. My husband & I are trying to conceive for the past 3 years. I finally got a positive pregnancy test last December but it turned out to be a heartbreaking miscarriage at 7th week.
    My periods have been regular and I dont seem to face any significant problems in my cycle.
    We are taking suppliments (multivitamins, folic acid, vitamin C & etc) and changed to healthy diet by consuming lots of fruits & vegetables. But nothing seems to help us.
    What do you think our problem(s) could be?
    I do admit that I have some stress, sometimes. Besides the pressure of getting pregnant, other issues come-and-go making myself more stressed. Is this a problem too?
    How can you help us?
    *Leena*

  14. Olesia says:

    Hi Iva. I’m 47 y.o., but with new relationship I would like to have a baby. I got a shock a week ago. My FSH was 48! Doctor wasn’t very surportive at all, she said my eggs are at poor quality and hardly left! My period irrigular and I have ant crawling feeling in my feet at nite, but no more simptoms. However, she said I’m at perimenopause and nothing can be done! I refuse to belive that all is over so suddenly, I always was VERY FERTILE, one accational intercaurse was enough to have a baby on the way! I have 4 children differant ages. youngest 6 y. o., she was accsident, Than for 6 years I don’t have any sex and then that new!!! Anyway. I got MELATONIN and now start to have it every night. I also heard about WHEATGRASS, I bought it as well. Well, I do this EXPERIMENT on myself! I appriciate any advise.

  15. Elizabeth O'Brien says:

    Hallo Eva,

    I have been following your NFP program for some time now.

    This is interesting, I have had 2 failed IVF attempts (the first resulted in chemical pregnancy that stopped growing) and have since been put on DHEA which I have read can dramatically improve egg quality in older women. I am going to take this for a few months and take a break from IVF and see what happens, I am also taking all the other usual suspects in terms of supplements. I am a high and fast responder (almost too fast, having to have ovulation induced to occur on Day 11) and everything else is normal.

    It seems though that less than 50% of my eggs are fertilizing, is this an indicator of bad egg quality or something else?

    How does Melatonin react with other supplements?

    Thank you,

    Elizabeth

    • Iva Keene says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for your comment.
      If only 50% of the eggs are fertilizing possible factors could be:
      1. The quality of the sperm
      2. The quality of the eggs – you may have overlooked a nutrient or a toxin you are still being exposed to.
      3. The quality of the supplements — only practitioner grade supplements have therapeutic doses needed for a therapeutic effect.
      3. The chemicals used in IVF

      There are many potential causes, and it’s hard to tell which is the main
      factor without having a closer look at your case. You can use the Fertility
      Analysis or a phone consultation if you’d like me to look at your case and
      prescribe practitioner grade supplements to you.

      Warm regards,

      Iva

  16. Olesia says:

    Hi, I didn’t get responses yet, but update you about my situation. After spotting 2 weeks after last MP, which was 28.05.11 I have blood test, which show very high FSH – 48. Doctor refuse to do anything asume I’m perimenopausal. 4.07.11 I started taking 3mg ot MELATONIN every night. Period didn’t come intime, but 2 weeks before I started to have sore breasts and all others pre-mens symptoms. However, I still did’t get my period! Eventhough a week ago there was some tiny-weeny spots! ” days ago I also notice that my brest STOPPED being SORE for a while, than again sore! Now again it not sore! What’s going on? Is it Melatonin or peremenopausal and Melatonin does’n change anything? Please, answer me, I really don’t know what’s going on and do I do right thing taking Melatonin? But I have to help myself if doctors refuse to do anything. Thank you. Olesia

  17. LT says:

    Hi Iva

    I m 38 and from Asia. I just had 2 failed attempt of ivf. First one was 2 yrs ago which resulted in 1 embryo transfer but my period came before the 2 ww. The latest was a week ago, with no ET as cell does not divide. It seems that both attempt were due to less than 4 matures eggs. This tume only 2. I guess I hv low ovarian reserve abd fsh of 10.7. It should be egg quantity and quality issues. I had been doing acupuncture for a year. We plan to go for a 3rd attempt in Mar. Is there any advice you can provide to increase the quantity and quality of the eggs?

    • Iva Keene says:

      Yes, LT please refer to the NFP program as many couples in your situation have been successful after following the program for 120 days before IVF. High FSH can be brought down and the quality of the eggs you have left can be improved. If you’d like more personalized help please use the phone consultation or the fertility analysis services I provide. All the best, Iva

  18. Helen Alfred says:

    Kokoime
    I will like to ask what should i do, becuase my issue is one Block Fallapian Tube, can this program also help with block fallapian tube?
    Which supplement is recommend and what kind of changes, should i also stop dairy products?
    Regard

  19. hcg says:

    Hello there, I discovered your site by the use of Google at the same time as looking for a related topic, your site came up, it appears good. I have added to favourites|added to bookmarks.

  20. keiko says:

    Hi Iva, I’ve done some chelation with dmsa. The last dose was taken 11/28/2011. Then I had a challenge test 2 wks later, in December. Would the one time dmsa challenge in December adversely affect my egg if I wish to try to conceive in March (90 days from challenge date, > 100 days from last date of chelation)? I’m 45 yo, I really don’t have much time. I also read that unlike female are born with all the eggs, the male produce sperm all the time so they can improve the sperm quality relatively quick, is it true?

    • Iva Keene says:

      Hi Keiko,

      Yes, men can improve sperm health in as little as 90 days. I suggest that you wait for at least 90 days as well, 120 even better after the last challenge to really ensure that the eggs have not been damaged. If they have and you TTC and get pregnant the risk of miscarriage is high, so if you miscarry, you’ll need to wait for three months on top. So it’s best to wait even at your age. Hope this helps. Iva

      • Melissa says:

        Hi Iva

        I am 40yo, I fell pregnant in December 2012, but miscarried early just under 5 weeks in January, also, had 2 previous miscarriages in 2012. I had my son at 37, and really want another child. One of my FSH levels came out at 10.2, then another was 7.4, Lh 3., can’t remember my Estrogen levels, but my AMH was 3.7, I guess I have a low reserve? Can fertility drugs stimulate more eggs, that are healthy, how do they work? I am getting pregnant, but having early miscarriages, can anything help? Maca or Melatonin??
        Thanks.

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