It is astounding to think that a woman is born with a set number of eggs that will be a part of her reproductive cycle as she ages. During fetal development a woman has around six million eggs, however by the time she is born this number has dwindled to one to two million (still a very large amount). When they begin to menstruate and hit puberty, they have in the region of 300,000 to 400,000 eggs.
Interestingly, only a small number of these eggs will be ovulated during a woman’s reproductive years, typically in the area of 400-500 eggs. Although women hold thousands of eggs, so few are ovulated because they lose an estimated 1000 eggs per month during the menstrual cycle, with only one being ovulated. Due to this process, the number of eggs a woman has decreases as she ages, and by the time of menopause, a woman typically has only a few thousand eggs remaining.
A number of things can cause fertility issues, specifically with relation to a women’s ovulation process, their eggs, and menstrual cycle. Women can experience infertility if the number of eggs in their ovaries is below average, or the eggs are not functioning in the way that they should be.
Reasons for fertility issues
Endometriosis causes pieces of the womb lining to grow in other places, which affects the menstrual cycle and can cause considerable pain and discomfort along the way. Endometriosis affects the successful implantation of a fertilised egg and makes conception more difficult.
Hormone imbalances are one of the main reasons a woman’s ovulation and egg quality is thrown out of flow. These types of imbalances can cause conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and anovulation. Men’s hormonal imbalances, such as a lack of testosterone, can also affect fertility.
PCOS is the development of, often harmless, follicles on the ovaries. They are created because of underdeveloped bags where eggs usually develop. PCOS affects many women, however only a small proportion experience symptoms. Those that do are unable to release eggs due to them being stuck in the aforementioned sacs, have irregular periods, excessive hair growth, hair loss, skin problems, problems getting pregnant.
Other things affecting eggs, ovulation and fertility are a history of eating disorders, substance abuse and thyroid conditions. Stress also plays a huge role in infertility, and the smooth operation of our reproductive systems. Experiencing stress and trauma affects the body’s pituitary gland, which in turn impacts the normal release of hormones required to release the egg. In severe cases, pituitary tumours can be caused due to this undue stress on the body.
Ways to look after reproductive health
Looking after your fertility, specifically your egg quality, is important. Even if you have experienced conception struggles in the past, there are still lots of things you can do to improve egg quality.
Stopping smoking, improving your diet, and participating in regular gentle exercise are all ways to help your fertility and boost your overall health. As much as possible, trying to live in a way that reduces the production of cortisol and prolactin (basically reducing your stress), is key when you are looking to improve your egg quality. Yoga, meditation, calming walks, journaling and professional support can all go a long way to helping you feel calm and more balanced on all levels.
Boosting blood flow supports egg health, because eggs are aided by high levels of oxygen in the blood flow that is delivered to the ovaries. Staying hydrated, exercise and taking the relevant supplements can all help.
There are also options to freeze your eggs if you feel this is a choice that appeals at this time.
Look after you – whatever your situation
Whatever your situation, your health and wellbeing are a priority. Of course, seeking appropriate medical advice when you are looking to enhance your reproductive health is advised.