It Starts with the Egg Recap & Being Pre-pregnant
I’ve been holding back on writing about this for a while now because I didn’t want to deal with all the questions and assumptions “are you pregnant, are you trying, when are you going to start trying…” but I feel that the knowledge I am gaining about women’s health and pregnancy needs to be shared.
I’ve always been very passionate about and fascinated with pregnancy. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be pursuing my dream career as I study nutrition while working alongside Dr. Nicole Rivera in the Functional Medicine program at Integrative Wellness Group and am now also being integrated into the Pregnancy and Pediatrics program ran by Dr. Kyle Klim.
I recently read the book “It Starts with the Egg” by Rebecca Fett which I highly recommend but also wanted to share the main takeaways for anyone who wants the cliff notes. The most important message here is that we can not wait until we are ready so start trying to conceive to make lifestyle changes to improve our egg quality and fertility. We have to consider being “pre-pregnant” or the time before starting to try, the first stage of pregnancy.
*Your eggs develop 3-4 months in advance which means you need to be making changes to improve egg quality at the very least 4 months in advance
Recent scientific research shows that chromosomal abnormalities can be influenced by nutrients and lifestyles factors that are in your control.
You can improve egg quality by reducing your exposure to specific toxins that can harm fertility: BPA (chemical found in plastic food containers and paper receipts) and phthalates (found in plastics, fragrances, beauty and cleaning products) disrupt proteins that help make estrogen and estrogen production and it blocks estrogen from binding to its receptors. Estrogen is needed to stimulate follicle growth further for the egg to mature. Reduce your exposure to BPA by:
only buying canned goods labeled “BPA-Free”
replacing plastic containers with glass
if using plastic containers, hand wash them and do not use them with heat (microwave, dishwasher, hot soups or foods)
say no to the receipt. who saves a receipt these days? say no or wash your hands after handling if its necessary
Reduce your exposure to phthalates by:
look for phthalate-free when purchasing beauty, laundry and cleaning products (I personally use the thinkdirty to make sure products are non-toxic)
avoid PVC or vinyl (often found in shower curtains, rain coats, place mats and make up bags.
Things that can affect fertility: vitamin D deficiency, hypothyroidism, Celiac disease, gum disease (make sure you are flossing, brushing, oil pulling etc. to detox the mouth regularly from bacteria). If you suspect or know that you have any of these conditions, work with your physician or functional medicine practitioner to treat them.
Take a prenatal vitamin at least 3-4 months in advance (earlier than that is fine too! a prenatal will be beneficial during childbearing years as long as you are not detoxing while you are taking them in which case they would likely pass through your urine)
if you have the MTHFR genetic mutation, make sure you are taking a prenatal with folate and not folic acid (this whole topic deserves another blog post)
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a coenzyme molecule found in every cell in the body including eggs that creates electrical energy in the mitochondria in the form of ATP. As we age, mitochondria are less efficient energy producers. Energy is needed for proper egg development and for an egg to mature with the correct number of chromosomes. This can be found in foods such as sardines but not enough which is why supplementing is necessary to help improve egg quality. CoQ10 takes months to build up in the tissue so supplement at least 3-4 months in advance.
make sure to get ubiquinol (active antioxidant) , not ubiquinone (not soluble or easily absorbed)
look for “reduced form”, “active antioxidant form”, “ubiquinol” or “KanekaQH” on the label
As we age, oxidation (chemical reactions occurring inside our cells that can lead to DNA, protein, lipid, cell membrane and mitochondria damage) causes more problems for our eggs. Melatonin and antioxidants are important. A good prenatal vitamin and healthy diet will likely provide the antioxidants you need but if you are 35+, have PCOS, unexplained infertility or are preparing for IVF, you might want to consider supplementing. It is not recommended to supplement with melatonin if you are trying to conceive naturally because it can disrupt natural hormone balance, but it is recommended to restore normal melatonin levels (which decline with age) by making sure you get exposure to light through daily walks. This will also help support your vitamin D levels which are another essential nutrient that you might want to consider supplementing in the winter when you are no longer getting natural sun exposure.
Diet - start cleaning up your diet. It’s all about moderation and its OK to treat yourself but improve egg quality by avoiding “white” carbohydrates and processed foods with trans fats, by limiting alcohol, caffeine, and starchy vegetables and by including more non-starchy vegetables, lean un-processed wild and grass-fed protein and healthy fats.
It’s not all about the women. Sperm quality is also very important. Men should take a daily multi-vitamin and also consider adding in CoQ10, eat a healthy diet high in antioxidants, reduce or avoid exposure to toxins (as mentioned above), keep their cell phone out of their pocket to avoid radiofrequency electromagnetic waves emitted by the phone, and reduce alcohol consumption especially when leading up to IVF.