Healthy eggs are the fundamental building blocks of having a successful reproductive system. Though it has always been known that a woman is born with all possible eggs and she starts losing them one by one during her menstrual cycles after attaining puberty, recent research has shown that with a healthy lifestyle and the correct balance of hormones, one can also produce eggs during her reproductive years.
It takes 90 days for an egg to fully form, which is why one must adhere diet and lifestyle changes for at least 3 months in order to see any benefits. As the eggs change in preparation for ovulation they are susceptible to healthy and unhealthy influences. Some of the most important factors to consider while ensuring good health of eggs, include,
Another reason to maintain a healthy egg quality is while opting for in-vitro fertilisation techniques. Egg donation is a form of fertility treatment used by women who are unable, for whatever reason, to use their own eggs to have a child. In egg donation, the eggs that are used have been donated by an egg donor. The woman donating her eggs is known as the donor and the woman who receives the fertilized eggs (embryos) is known as the recipient. High quality eggs when donated by the donor can then be used to produce high-quality embryos, which must then be strong enough to survive the early stages of development in order to result in a successful pregnancy. The development of high-quality embryos is also dependent on the quality and practices of the IVF laboratory where they are being treated.
Egg quality refers to the probability of embryo implantation, based partially on the number of eggs a woman has remaining for the future, or her ovarian reserve. This is related to, but not completely limited by, her age. Likewise, while embryo reserve is a good indicator of egg quality, quantity does not always equal quality. There are women who have a small number of high-quality eggs and who are able, therefore, to achieve pregnancy through IVF.
High-quality eggs allow the embryo to grow and implant or stick to the uterine endometrium. In order to go on to survive the early stages of development and eventually result in pregnancy, an embryo must be strong (high quality) and should have the power to resist the effects of different acids released by the reproductive tract. High-quality eggs and embryos have a higher likelihood of leading to a successful pregnancy. This is the reason age is very important in a woman's chance at a successful pregnancy. As a woman ages, her ability to produce high-quality eggs begins to diminish. However, with newer technologies now being available, one can also freeze one’s eggs at a particular age and then have them inseminated and inserted in their uterus when they want.
Decline in ovarian reserve is connected to the reduction in the chances of a viable pregnancy. Age is also tied with egg quality: only twelve percent of all eggs in most thirty-year-old women have the potential to become babies. Only four percent of those eggs remain by age forty. So although egg quality cannot be tested directly, a woman's age is often an excellent predictor/indicator of the quality of her eggs.
Another way to think of diminished egg quality is considering the “The Battery Analogy”. Hypothetically, one can think of an egg as possessing a number of batteries that provide its energy stores. Biologiclaly speaking, these batteries are nothing but analogues of tiny organelles called mitochondria, which are the energy producers of mammalian cells. As one grows older, the energy-producing capacity of the mitochondria decreases. The egg is connected to the circulation prior to ovulation, and it is connected again after embryo implantation. But during the seven days between ovulation and implantation, the egg and the embryo which results from it are contained within the zona pellucida and are dependent on energy coming from the mitochondria which were in the egg at the moment of ovulation (no mitochondrial replication takes place until after implantation).
The older egg usually looks normal at the time of ovulation and its initial fertilization and embryonic development remain normal. This is because its energy stores are still adequate. However, it soon runs out of energy (due to ageing of the mitochondria) and stops dividing. Implantation is not achieved because the embryo stops dividing before it reaches the implantation stage. There is no way yet to know how to increase the energy stores to an egg prior to ovulation. When egg quality is low, the only therapy that has a proven track record and produces reliable results is egg donation.
However, all said and done, age should not become a barrier for planning for pregnancies or a family. If one sticks to a healthy and disciplined routine, women can get pregnant even in their forties or above.