Egg Quality vs. Quantity – What’s the Diff?
When it comes to fertility you might have heard about that ticking clock that we are supposedly all racing against. It’s that throbbing pain in the back of your head that you’d really like to drown out with a glass of red wine in the tub. This stigma can be frustrating to deal with because most days it feels like there’s enough heat on us as is. Unfortunately, that throbbing pain has something real to talk to us about. It has to do with the fact that as we age, our eggs do too. The upside to this is that understanding what happens in our bodies can help us make better decisions for our future instead of avoiding them. There are several things that can help you better understand the way your body produces eggs and how it results in a live birth. To keep it simple, we’ll stick with the concept of egg quality vs quantity and the role each has in conception.
Let’s start with egg quality
When we were born, we were born with all of our eggs — all of them — we don’t get any more than the ones we have. The poor girls have had to take a ride with us through all the “occasional” cigarettes we smoked on stoops during college, the evenings we pulled all-nighters to meet deadlines, and the copious amount of caffeine we pumped ourselves with to recover from it all. Additionally, there’s the stuff we can’t avoid like high stress, restless nights for weeks on end, and the time you had to stay home with a high fever. Our eggs and ovaries take a beating just like we do and it impacts their quality — even just getting older takes its toll.
So what about egg quantity?
We start out with almost 2 million eggs (they’re more like follicles until puberty though) so you might think “Well shoot, that explains octomoms…” but it’s more complicated than that, obviously women throughout the world aren’t popping out millions of babies in a lifetime, thank goodness.
When we ovulate, only one egg graduates from Ovary University, a special and smart little valedictorian. But all the other follicles (potential eggs) that were waiting to accept their diploma hang back and essentially get reabsorbed into OU and never graduate. That number of OU dropouts averages at about 1,000 potential eggs each menstrual cycle and increases quickly with age. So to drop the metaphor, you lose over 1,000 eggs each period and you’ve got about 300-400 periods in a lifetime (don’t reach for the calculator, it’s better not to look).
So with age, yes, your reserves do deplete.
Which is more important, quality or quantity?
Obviously, both are pretty helpful when it comes to natural conception. If you have more good eggs each period, you have a good chance at pregnancy. When it comes to egg freezing, we’d still like to get both a good quantity of eggs that are of good quality. It’s actually for this reason that we use hormone injections; so your ovaries give us more than just one OU graduate per-period. It also increases the number of valedictorians (normal eggs) and discourages the dunces (abnormal eggs) from getting their diploma (ovulating).
At Trellis, we also like to encourage you to eat well, meet with a fertility coach, and treat-yo-self during the process to help your body produce quality, healthy eggs.
However, because egg freezing uses the process of IVF, we have the advantage of fertilizing the egg directly. From there, an embryo is created (see our article on egg vs. embryo freezing) and this is where the opportunity for genetic testing can be helpful to see if the embryos show as abnormal before implantation, should you choose to do so.
Okay, okay, so now what?
Well, we’ve given you the information and you can use it as you see fit. Obviously, freezing eggs earlier in adulthood has a lot of advantages over freezing later on, but we know that there are other factors that play into measuring a woman’s fertility and it’s all up to you on what timing feels right.
There are people out there who study this stuff for a living (Reproductive Endocrinologists, Ob/Gyns, and Embryologists) and you want to hear some good news? We have some of the best in those fields working right here in our studio who can lay out all the details for you. Meet our clinical team here.