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Age Counts, but it Isn’t Everything

Age Counts, but it Isn’t Everything

Have you heard that once you reach your mid-30s, the quality of your eggs deteriorates and you have a reduced chance of having a healthy pregnancy? If so, you’re not alone. Scientists used to believe that the quality of a woman’s eggs were fixed based on age. And while age does play a role in the quality of a woman’s eggs, we now know that quality is not fixed. Women in the same age group have a variety of egg quality, and science has helped us better understand reasons for the differences. We now know that egg quality is more likely to deteriorate due to errors during the process of meiosis, a type of cell division. Errors during meiosis can result in eggs missing or having extra chromosomes, which can result in unviable eggs. 


The good news is that by supporting the process of meiosis, we can improve egg quality in our 30s, 40s, and beyond! So, you’re probably asking, ‘how can I support meiosis’? One word: mitochondria!    

 

Mitochondria are small organelles in your cells that produce energy, which includes the energy needed for meiosis. A developing egg, known as an oocyte, has more mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA than any other cellular organelle in the body, somewhere around 100,000 mitochondria! The quality of oocyte mitochondria determines the quality of the embryo. Damage or loss of mitochondria is one of the major drivers of the effects of aging. The good news is that eggs take 3-4 months to mature before ovulation and during this time, there are many things we can do to enhance the quality of our mitochondria and eggs even as we age:

 

 1. Smart supplementation.

Certain nutrients have been shown to support and improve egg quality including CoQ10, NAC, and L-Carnitine. Among several functions, these acts as antioxidants which can neutralize or reverse oxidative stress, a major driver of mitochondrial dysfunction.

2. Eat your seafood!

Optimal levels of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to increased fertility and may delay ovarian aging by improving oocyte quality during advanced maternal age. Eating 2 servings of omega-3 rich seafood per week can help keep levels stable, but many women start at low or deficient levels. It may be difficult for many to get the optimal amount of DHA without supplementation. If that’s the case for you, consider WeNatal’s DHA+.

 

3. Limit exposure to toxins wherever you can.

Toxins have been shown to cause mitochondrial dysfunction, and while we can’t eliminate all toxic exposure, we can cut down on our overall burden by making simple changes/swaps. We suggest eliminating plastic wherever possible, such as storage containers and water bottles. Look for glass and stainless steel varieties instead. Choose organic when you can to cut down on pesticide exposure. Also, it’s worth investing in air and water filters for your home. (link to our guide or encourage people to download it).

 

4. Manage stress (as best you can).

Acute and chronic stress can negatively impact our mitochondria, so finding ways to regularly engage in relaxation and stress reduction practices can protect these tiny but mighty organelles! Some of the best ways to manage stress include meditation, walks in nature, connecting with loved ones, moving your body through gentle and moderate intensity exercises, yoga, and very importantly, setting boundaries so that you don’t take on more than you can handle.

 

5. Sleep!

Prioritizing your sleep is one of the most important things you can do to support the health of your mitochondria. Circadian rhythm regulates mitochondria function and while we sleep, our bodies repair and detoxify toxic compounds which ultimately protects against damage to the mitochondria.

 

While age does influence egg quality, it's not the only factor. By focusing on supporting mitochondrial health through smart supplementation, a nutrient-rich diet, toxin reduction, stress management, and quality sleep, women can take proactive steps to improve their egg quality well into their 30s and beyond.


Remember, fertility is a journey, and with the right knowledge and lifestyle choices, you can optimize your reproductive health at any age.



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Lisa Dreher, MS, RDN, LDN

Lisa is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Integrative Health. She has been practicing for over a decade and works full time at Dr. Mark Hyman's UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.

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