Considering IVF can be overwhelming, you might have a lot of questions about the treatment. Is egg retrieval painful? What are your chances of success with each treatment cycle? How much will it all cost?
If you're like most people, thinking about your egg quality may not be at the top of the list. However, egg quality is one of the most important factors that affects the success of an IVF cycle. That's because good quality embryos come from good quality eggs. To help you better understand egg quality and IVF, our Tarzana fertility center offers the following information.
Why Egg Quality Matters
Just as a semen analysis looks at sperm count and sperm quality, female fertility involves both egg count and egg quality. The reason is that low-quality eggs have internal defects - such as missing chromosomes or poor energy production - that prevent the cells from properly dividing and developing into a healthy embryo. Women having difficulty conceiving may not even realize their egg quality is decreased if their menstrual periods seem normal.
Although blood tests give us a general sense of the quality of eggs, the real test of egg quality is embryo implantation. Even if an egg looks good during ovulation and upon retrieval, and the resulting embryo looks good in the laboratory, it doesn’t mean it will implant. Some embryos encounter a problem or simply run out of energy and stop dividing before the implantation stage.
Quantity Does Not Equal Quality
You may have heard that every woman is born with all the eggs she is ever going to make, which is about one million eggs. As women approach menopause (typically around age 50), the remaining supply of eggs - known as the "ovarian reserve" - is dramatically less than earlier in her fertile years. Sometimes, a lot of emphasis is placed on the ovarian reserve as an indication of overall fertility. However, quantity does not always equal quality, and patients with a small number of eggs can still achieve a pregnancy with IVF.
Age Is Not the Only Factor
Of course, the quality of a woman's eggs is affected by her age, but age is not the only factor. Endometriosis, PCOS, ovarian surgery, chemotherapy/radiation, and certain genetic conditions can all affect the quality of the eggs available for IVF. To some extent, diet, hormone levels, environmental influences, smoking, and stress can affect egg quality as well.
Considering Egg Donation
Just as the number of eggs doesn't necessarily rule out IVF, decreased egg quality doesn't mean you won't get pregnant. However, it may mean it will be more difficult to become pregnant, and you should have realistic expectations after discussing this with your doctor.
Some studies are exploring the role of melatonin supplements in improving egg quality but more research is needed. Additionally, no scientific data show that herbs are safe or effective to take while you're trying to conceive.
If your infertility is related in part to poor egg quality, you may want to consider using donor eggs. Egg donation is the most successful form of fertility treatment available, with success rates up to 80 percent, and is the only proven therapy for low egg quality.
Learn More about Egg Quality and IVF
If you have a condition that may have affected your egg quality, and you would like more information about your fertility, we encourage you to contact the Center for Fertility and Gynecology. We would be happy to discuss your options for conception.