One of the major challenges facing families all around the world is infertility. Poor egg quality is a common cause of infertility among women all around the world. It also means poor oocyte quality.
The egg or oocyte is the female’s reproductive cell. The egg is to women what sperm is to men. This means that whatever happens to the oocyte of a woman affects her chances of pregnancy.
What is Poor Egg Quality?
So then, what is poor egg quality? It is a condition that occurs when the egg (which is the reproductive cell of the woman) does not mature or develop as it ought to. This affects the chances of pregnancy of any woman.
There are several women in the world who have challenges getting pregnant. Poor egg quality is a very valid reason why they could have this challenge.
In this article, we are going to examine the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and possible treatment for poor egg quality.
The Causes of Poor Egg Quality
There are several causes of poor egg quality in women. In this article, you would learn about the most common causes of poor egg quality. Poor egg quality and infertility are very related. One former serves as a cause while the latter is the result.
Some common causes of poor egg quality are
1. Age and Poor Egg Quality
Unlike men, women are born with all the egg cells they will ever have. This means that as they increase in age, so also do their egg cells. Men produce several million sperm cells per day, but only one can fertilize an egg cell per time. Women are not like this.
During fetal development, women have about 6 million egg cells. At birth, it drops to around a million. By the time the woman reaches puberty, it reduces to around 300,000 egg cells.
Thus, one of the major causes of poor egg quality and infertility in women is their age. As women get older, the number and the quality of egg cells decline. This reduces the chances of fertilization.
2. Genetics and Poor Egg Quality
As women increase in age, the eggs like any cell receive and accumulate what the woman exposes them to. This could result in genetic abnormalities which would result in poor egg quality.
Also, there are young women who do not have eggs of good quality due to genetics. This is not typical of young women. These problems could be due to genetic mutation.
The researchers have not been able to pinpoint the exact genetic mutations responsible for poor egg quality.
3. Exposure To Environmental Toxins
Exposure to environmental toxins is a significant contributor to poor egg quality, which can lead to fertility problems. The presence of various chemicals in our environment, such as pesticides, air pollutants, and heavy metals, can affect the reproductive system, including the ovaries and eggs.
These toxins can cause damage to the DNA in the eggs, leading to chromosomal abnormalities, which can result in miscarriages, birth defects, and infertility. Additionally, toxins can interfere with hormone production and disrupt the menstrual cycle, further impacting fertility.
Unfortunately, exposure to environmental toxins is often unavoidable, but there are ways to minimize exposure. Simple measures such as using natural cleaning products, eating organic food, avoiding smoking and alcohol, and reducing exposure to air pollutants can help to limit exposure to toxins.
It’s important to be aware of the potential risks and take steps to reduce exposure to environmental toxins to support better reproductive health. Consulting with a healthcare provider or fertility specialist can provide further guidance on minimizing exposure and optimizing fertility.
4. Lifestyle and Poor Egg Quality
There are some habits or lifestyle choices that could affect the quality of a woman’s egg. These habits contribute to poor egg quality and reduce the chances of conception in women.
Some of the habits that result in poor egg quality are
One of the habits that could result in poor oocyte quality is smoking. There is no medical advantage that smoking gives. Smoking has been linked by Scientists to cancers, especially of the lungs and the airways.
The research conducted by B. J. Voorhis 1, J. D. Dawson, D. W .Stovall, A. E. Sparks, and C. H. Syrop revealed the following:
· Smokers have reduced gonadotropin-stimulated ovarian function. This means that the ovary would not be able to respond well to gonadotropin. Gonadotropin is a very important hormone in the human system.
· Reduced estradiol concentration in serum (blood) has been associated with smoking.
· Reduced number of retrieved oocytes
· Reduced number of embryos
· Fewer mature oocytes (eggs)
· Smoking during treatment reduces the implantation rate by a whopping 50%
· Women who quit smoking before treatment had the same pregnancy rate as those who do not smoke.
This results in poor egg quality in women and infertility.
2. Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Women may be aware of how dangerous drinking is during pregnancy. But, may not be aware of how it reduces their chances of even getting pregnant in the first place.
Aside from other health troubles like liver problems, heart problems, etc, it can also cause poor egg quality in women.
Research revealed that excessive consumption of alcohol affects the hormonal cycle in women. This affects the chances of conception. The research also showed that heavy drinking during ovulation can affect conception.
This could result in infertility.
3. Poor Diet
It is no news that what we eat affects everything about us. Our reproductive health also depends on what we eat. Food that contains a high amount of saturated fats like junk or fast food can affect the health of eggs of a woman.
Eggs or oocytes are found in sacs called follicles. Within this follicle is a fluid known as follicular fluid. This fluid can get inflamed due to a high intake of saturated fat. Also, this could affect the DNA of the egg cells. This results in poor egg quality.
Aside from unhealthy lifestyles, genetics, and age, some medical conditions also can cause affect egg quality in women. Some of those conditions are
Endometriosis means that the endometrial linings (the layer that lines the insides of the uterus) are now found outside of the uterus. This causes a whole lot of pain in the woman.
Endometriosis is also a cause. Dr. Simon Lane in research of his said this:
“We believe these results could have clinical implications for many women struggling to fall pregnant.
We found that fluid from the follicles of patients with endometriosis was found to block egg maturation by generating free-radical chemicals called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the egg, which damaged their DNA.
This damage caused the egg not to mature, and hence it could not be fertilized. More research is now needed to investigate whether the damage caused by endometriosis is treatable or preventable.”
b. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which there are a lot of cysts in a woman’s ovary. This leads to the build-up of a lot of fluids in the woman. A woman with this condition produces a high amount of male sex hormones – androgens. In some cases, a woman with this condition may not have the cysts.
A high level of androgens would affect the woman’s reproductive cycle. The elevation of androgens would affect the concentration of female hormones. A low amount of female hormones could affect ovulation and the maturity of the egg. This results in poor oocyte quality.
c. Autoimmune Disorders
An autoimmune disorder is a condition in which the immune system attacks the host cells. This leads to cellular damage of the attacked cell or tissue.
Researchers have not discovered the real cause of autoimmune disorders. But, some are more susceptible to having it than others. This has to do with the genetics of the woman.
When the woman’s defense cells (white blood cells) attack the eggs, this is sure to cause poor egg quality. This would reduce the chances of conception.
There are other medical conditions that have been associated with this.
These conditions are
Abnormal Chromosome Number: The incorrect number of chromosomes in egg cells is aneuploidy. Some percentages of eggs in women have an abnormal number of chromosomes. For women in their early 30s, between 10-25% of their eggs are affected by aneuploidy. While women over 40 have more than 50% affected by aneuploidy.
Aneuploidy eggs may not develop well after fertilization. This may lead to miscarriages.
Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer patients. The downside is that it also affects the ovary’s function of producing hormones. It also prevents ovulation (the release of eggs). This can affect the menstrual cycle and result in infertility. It can cause poor egg quality.
Radiotherapy is another way to treat cancer patients. It is used to destroy cancer cells. It has some disadvantages. The major disadvantage that it has is that it also destroys healthy cells. When targeted towards the reproductive cells, they cause poor egg quality and other problems.
One of the causes of infertility is obesity. According to research, obesity affects the growth and maturation of oocytes leading to poor oocyte quality. This reduces the chances of getting pregnant for a woman seeking a child.
Obesity elevates insulin, glucose, and free fatty acids which affects the oocyte quality.
Other conditions include
- Ovarian Cysts
- Drug Use
- Caffeine Consumption
In this article, we have been able to examine the major causes of poor egg quality in women. In the next article, we are going to examine some of the symptoms, diagnoses, and treatment options.