The quality of a female’s egg is directly related to her fertility, which is the ability to conceive a child. Poor egg quality decreases the potential of an embryo developing and a successful pregnancy happening. There are multiple reasons for poor egg quality and showing signs and symptoms thereof. But before being concerned, there are several measures that can be followed to improve the quality of the eggs being produced.
What are the symptoms of poor egg quality?
Poor egg quality is one of the most common causes of infertility; by the age of 35, a woman’s egg quality decreases. There are a variety of symptoms for egg quality, from chromosomal disorders to low FSH reserves alongside miscarriages. Below, find some of the most common signs of poor egg quality in women.
Abnormal chromosomal count
A normal egg has 23 chromosomes, which when fertilised ends up with 46 chromosomes (23 from the egg and 23 from the sperm). The embryo which is then formed and implanted into the uterus should have 46 chromosomes to be considered normal.
If the chromosomal count is more or less than 23 for the egg, this is seen as abnormal and called an aneuploid egg. Regardless of the sperm count, the end chromosomal count will not be 46 and will be seen as abnormal. These contribute to chromosomal disorders where the foetus may be born with a chromosomal disease, be stillborn or have a miscarriage may occur.
Low FSH reserves
FSH stands for follicle-stimulating hormone, which is secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain and this hormone sends the signal to the ovaries that an egg needs to be released every 28 days.
When there is a low amount of FSH being produced by the pituitary gland, this may indicate poor egg quality. Thus in turn, the eggs become more resistant to the FSH signals and the pituitary is forced to produce higher levels of FSH to stimulate the release of the egg. This starts to deplete the FSH reserves and in turn, a low FSH reserve is seen which indicates poor egg quality.
Low levels of estradiol and AMH
AMH stands for anti-mullerian hormone and this is a glycoprotein that signals the development and maturation of the eggs. This is also one of the first hormones released when the development of the egg occurs. Low levels of AMH are a sign of poor-quality eggs.
E2, also known as estradiol, is a hormone which establishes communication between the ovaries and the brain. Its’ function is to stimulate the growth of the ovarian follicles in the ovaries when E2 increases but if the E2 levels are too high prematurely, this shows that the ovaries are releasing the eggs too early and thus the quality of the egg may be poor.
Low follicle numbers
This is determined by counting the number of follicles between 4-9 millimetres in the ovaries via transvaginal ultrasound, in which a low number indicates poor quality of the eggs.
Multiple miscarriages may indicate that you are producing aneuploid eggs or abnormal eggs. Normally, these kinds of fertilised eggs are not implanted and are prevented but when they do implant, it might be highly likely to end in a miscarriage.
Irregular/elongated menstrual cycles
This is one of the more obvious signs of poor egg quality, infertility or hormonal issues. Irregular or elongated menstrual cycles indicate that there are problems with a female’s ovulation cycles during the menstrual cycle. This could be significant as the result may be that the ovulation stage does not occur at all or that the egg quality is poor and does not form adequately.
What are other general symptoms of poor egg quality?
Apart from the above, there are some general other symptoms which women can look for and get tested for. These are:
- Not being able to conceive
- Irregular menstruation (heavy or light flow), elongated/short menstruation, late periods or absence of menstruation (amenorrhea)
- History of miscarriages
What fertility treatments can help improve egg quality?
There are various medical treatments available to improve egg quality.
Some of the options include:
- IVF (in vitro fertilisation)
- IUI (intrauterine insemination)
- Fertility medication
- Surgical procedures
- Change of lifestyle
The quality of an egg is crucial when it comes to fertility. While a woman who is older, such as older than 40, will generally have poorer quality of eggs this does not mean conception is not possible. However, abnormal eggs generally cannot be fertilised and will often lead to conditions with embryos.
There are many factors which can influence fertility. When trying to improve fertility, it is often suggested for women to reassess their lifestyle. For example, by not drinking alcohol, stopping smoking, exercising moderately and following a well-balanced diet. Those who are overweight or obese are highly likely to experience fertility issues.