One of the most common questions I get is, “How can I improve embryo quality?” People also ask me, “How can I improve egg quality?” and, “How can I improve sperm quality?”
The thing is this: there are three factors that affect embryo quality: age, genetics, and environment. Again, this goes into egg quality, sperm quality, and then embryo quality too. Let’s break down “AGE.”
It’s not news that it gets harder to get pregnant as we get older. The reality is that it is possible to get pregnant when you’re over 40, it’s just that embryo quality is going to be lower. I advise that you try and be as aggressive as you can possibly be with your fertility treatment and maybe even freeze eggs or sperm at a younger or earlier age. If you can’t, don’t worry.
When you’re over 40, it’s about the quality of your eggs, not the quantity. Understanding the other parts of the word AGE will hopefully help you have better egg and sperm quality, regardless of your age. At the end of the day we cannot control age and we can’t control genetics. The only thing we can really control is environment. We also know that the egg supply goes down and the sperm supply also goes down as people age.
Age plays a role
Women should not blame lower embryo quality on themselves, and the truth is we really shouldn’t be blaming it on anybody. We’re just trying to understand what’s going on with your fertility story and your situation. As men get older it gets harder to get pregnant with a healthier embryo, too. Sperm age can certainly be a factor, too.
When it comes to age and eggs, I wish I could take an ultrasound picture and say, “I can already tell your egg quality is not good, and this is how we can improve it.” But we can’t.
We just have these simple tests like the Antral follicle count, the AMH, the FSH, and estradiol levels. If you haven’t had them done yet, ask your doctor, because they tell us a lot about the age or potential quality of your eggs and then potential quality of your embryos (but not everything).
For men, PathFertility.com can tell a guy his sperm age and whether it’s consistent with his chronological age. Let’s say you’re 30 years old and your sperm age is like 50. Well, you might have a problem with embryo quality. The sperm DNA fragmentation test can help us with this too. Just understanding that there might be that problem, you might be able to do things to fix it before you get pregnant and that could potentially help with a more successful IVF pregnancy or a pregnancy that is naturally conceived as well.
Considering Your Genetics
The next thing is genetics. Your genetics plays a huge part as far as embryo quality. We know that there are genes that we inherit from both parents, but I don’t have a test that I could do to show you exactly what those genes are and if you have any that may cause issues down the road. That’s the hardest part of going through IVF, you almost feel like you’re rolling the dice.
I like to have all the information up front, diagnosis before treatment. Understanding your genetics will get you super prepared for what’s next as far as how many embryos you should expect and their quality. Hopefully, by understanding your genetics ahead of time you might be ahead of the game.
What are the things that you can look at when it comes to genetics? Chromosome analysis. You can do PGT-A testing on your embryos. These are the types of genetic tests I’m talking about. Carrier screen? Yes, I recommend that too.
For the most part, genetics themselves are out of our control, so you have to just basically surrender and say, “I did the best that I could with the genes that I have.”
Controlling Your Environment
Now the only thing that we can control really is our environment: the things that we put into our body, the supplements we take, how well we take care of ourselves.
“Genetics loads the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger.” — Dr. Judith Stern
That’s why I recommend to my patients that they become or be the best versions of themselves and be as healthy as possible and avoid things like phthalates and BPA for example. Avoid toxins where possible.
MillionMarker.com offers a great test, and they have an amazing website that can teach you how to buy toothbrushes, what lotions to get, what kind of water bottles you should drink from. They offer a urine test that will evaluate the toxins you may be exposing yourself to in your current environment.
I really hope that learning about the three things that impact your egg, sperm, and embryo quality will help you so you can do what you can that is in your control before you see the fertility or IVF doctor.