Looking after your most precious reserve

Fertility expert and midwife to the stars, Zita West, advises on how to keep your eggs at their healthy best to improve chances of fertility and healthy pregnancy.

“One of the questions women constantly ask me is if there is anything I can do to improve the quality of their eggs,” says Zita. “We know that a woman is born with all of the eggs she will ever possess and these are her most precious, valuable commodity. Egg health is the cornerstone to fertility and they need to be nourished in order to mature, ovulate, fertilise, implant and finally, make a baby.”

The amount and quality of the eggs are genetically determined and reduce over the years, but the environment the eggs are growing in can be affected by lifestyle factors just like any other cell in the body.

“I always think of the egg as being magnificent. Once released when ovulated it is 550 times bigger than the sperm and is the largest cell in the body,” adds Zita. Prior to ovulation, it matures in a fluid-filled follicle and needs energy for the journey ahead. An egg lives up to 24 hours, so in this short window of time, it needs to be as healthy as it can be.

Ten tips for healthy eggs

Good hormonal fuel

The right hormones are required in the right amount at the right time during the menstrual cycle to grow, mature and ovulate an egg. Many women struggle during a cycle and are ruled by moods, foods and hormones. They also struggle with blood sugar balance, but regulating blood sugar by cutting sugars from the diet all help. Inositol from Zita West Products helps to regulate blood sugar and is an important component of follicular fluid. Remember; stress, lack of sleep and exhaustion all affect hormonal balance, and increased stress hormones can be detrimental to egg health.

Good energy

The egg cell requires different nutrients for different parts. The outer layer (the cell membrane) requires essential fatty acids Omega 3 and DHA. The powerhouse of the egg (the mitochondria) needs energy for when the egg divides after fertilization; CoQ10 works with enzymes, which help to cause chemical changes within the body, particularly energy production, and is needed for the reproductive system. B vitamins and Zinc are also needed for cell division after fertilisation.

Protection from free radicals

We all know that free radicals attack the cells and speed up the ageing process when it comes to beauty, but did you know that they are as important and necessary for healthy fertility? Everything in the body is made of cells that need to be protected from free radicals and this includes the egg and sperm, as well as all of the reproductive organs. Free radicals are a by-product of our metabolism, and, although they’re and needed at low levels, if you drink, smoke and have a poor diet, it increases your free radical load, which in turn damages the egg. The great thing is that a diet rich in antioxidants neutralises free radicals, so bright coloured fruit and veg will give you plenty of ammunition, but also use a supplement containing Vitamin C, Selenium and Pine Bark such as Zita West’s Vitafem Boost.

Nourishment

Protein provides the building blocks to healthy eggs and hormones; protein from fish, chicken and meat as well as vegetable sources are all crucial to egg health. One quarter of infertility cases relate to ovulation disorders, although recent studies have suggested that too high a protein diet can negatively impact fertility, but that dietary changes can improve or maintain the proper function of the ovaries and therefore enhance your chances of getting pregnant. Whole milk products and vegetable protein is good but cut trans fats from the diet as these can effect ovulation.

Nutrition

Micronutrients all help in the eggs’ development, and Vitamin D is key to this, especially for women going through IVF. Studies show that those with higher levels of the sunshine vitamin had a better IVF outcome So many of our clients are deficient in Vitamin D, and this has been linked to hormonal imbalances. Omega 3 and Essential Fatty Acids may influence egg maturation, so make sure you have enough in your diet. Iodine is abundant in the thyroid, ovaries and breasts and can be found in Essential Fatty Acids, Zinc and Betacarotene.

Blood flow

Studies show that acupuncture can help to increase blood flow to the pelvic area and the ovaries. If you have a good blood flow, more nutrients are able to get through and boost the health of the eggs.

Lifestyle factors

It is well documented that alcohol, cigarettes and recreational drugs affect egg health and increase free radical damage. Being overweight or underweight can also affect fertility; so take a good look at your exercise regime and your diet. Lifestyle factors such as diet, alcohol consumption, drug use, cigarettes, age and infections all increase oxidative stress, which in turn affects the health of the egg.

Environmental factors

BPA (Bisphenol A) is a chemical found in hard plastics and the coating of drink and food cans. Studies have found that BPA can affect the egg health by decreasing the percentage of eggs that matured, increasing the percentage of eggs that degenerate. Remember also with the BBQ season approaching to be careful of carcinogens on burnt food, which causes DNA damage.

Think inositol

One of the roles inositol plays in fertility is the development of follicles and blood sugar balance. Inositol (Myo-inositol) is part of the B vitamin family and has been found in the follicular fluid of higher quality eggs. Animal studies have shown that Myo-inositol helps with blastocyst development and is especially helpful for women with PCOS, but other women may find it helpful as well. Inositol is also thought to increase insulin sensitivity of the ovary, which helps improve egg quality. It is recommended that a woman who is trying to conceive should take it three months before they try to conceive while their eggs are developing.

Stress management

Releasing an egg each month may be affected by stress, as stress hormones are produced which can affect ovulation. For some women, chronic stress can affect ovulation by altering signals to the part of the brain that regulates the hormones that trigger the ovaries to release eggs each month. In cases where she ovulates in spite of the stress, there can be problems with fertilisation and implantation in the uterus. It’s not about eliminating stress; it’s about managing it. Many women de-stress with exercise, which is always a good thing, but the real benefits come from taking time to stop and practicing techniques that involve slowing down and doing nothing. Breathing techniques, meditation and yoga all help, and 20 minutes a day or more is perfect if you can incorporate this into your daily life.

Genetics can also play a role; one question every woman should ask their mothers is at what age they had the menopause. If it was early in her 40s then there is often a genetic link.

Zita West Products for Healthy Eggs

Vitafem

  • 90 capsules – 1 month’s supply
  • £21.50

Vitafem is a simple, effective way for women to support their fertility and ensure they are getting the essential nutrients they need while preparing for pregnancy.

ZW-Vitafem new 12

Vitafem Boost

  • 90 capsules – 1 month’s supply
  • £25.00

A new, premium quality, antioxidant “booster” formulation, specially designed as a combination product for use alongside Vitafem or any other good quality mutivitamin and mineral supplement

Please note: Vitafem Boost has been designed to work in combination with Vitafem and is not intended to be used as a stand-alone alternative.

ZW-Vitafem Boost new 12 

Inositol

  • 1 month’s supply
  • £12.50

Inositol is also thought to increase insulin sensitivity of the ovary, which helps improve egg quality. It is recommended that a woman who is trying to conceive should take it three months before they try to conceive while their eggs are developing.

Vital DHA

  • 60 capsules – 4 week’s supply
  • ?£14.50

Vital DHA contains Omega 3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), plus a small amount of Zinc. It has been designed to help protect both partners’ DNA from oxidative damage during preconception as well as to support normal fertility.

vitaldha2012

Vitamin D Spray

  • 100 sprays  – 3 month’s supply
  • £10.50

Vitamin D is obtained naturally from two sources: sunlight and food, however, we get most of our intake from the action of sunlight on our skin. Vitamin D plays a critical role during preconception, helping with the normal functioning of the immune system and healthy inflammatory response. 

All products available at zitawest.com

About The Author

Zita West
Midwife & Fertility Expert

Fertility and Pregnancy Expert Zita West is the leading pregnancy, birth and fertility expert in the UK. She is a practising midwife with 35 years’ experience and runs her own hugely successful clinic for natural and IVF birth – the only clinic in the UK to specialise in an integrated approach, combining mainstream medicine and holistic health with excellent IVF results. Zita is also a trained acupuncturist and nutritional advisor and is the author of nine books on fertility and pregnancy, including the best-selling Zita West’s Guide to Fertility and Assisted Conception. Her latest is Eat Yourself Pregnant, illustrating a range of traditional and modern mouth-watering recipes designed for prospective parents to boost their nutrition for fertility. She has a product range of vitamins and minerals to assist fertility and pregnancy, Zita West Products, and has set up an affiliated network of 170 acupuncturists in the UK and Ireland to promote good practice in fertility and pregnancy. She treats many high-profile clients, lectures around the world, and appears regularly on television and in the press giving advice and guidance on all pregnancy, birth and fertility issues. She is a columnist for Women’s Health magazine and a blogger for The Huffington Post. If you would like Zita to appear as an expert, please contact 020 7224 0017 or mailto:sophie@zitawest.com. http://www.zitawest.com

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