Egg Quality

Egg quality refers to the potential of your eggs to be fertilised, implanted, and developed into a healthy foetus, which is determined by the egg’s DNA composition.

The Ageing Egg

As you age, a growing percentage of your remaining eggs inside your ovaries are subject to chromosomal (DNA) changes due to sicknesses, fevers, toxins, and other factors. Once a cell’s DNA is degraded, it cannot be fixed.

An egg with chromosomal abnormalities is not viable and will cause a series of complications if it is released on ovulation day, including not being fertilised, failing to implant in the uterine wall, or leading to a miscarriage or birth defects in the foetus, such as Down Syndrome.

Causes of Egg Abnormalities

The increase in genetic abnormalities with a female's ovarian reserve over-time is a complex topic, but it primarily revolves around a few key biological factors.

Because egg quality cannot be improved, these abnormal eggs accumulate over-time, resulting in a higher percentage of abnormal eggs than normal eggs among older women.

Since DNA is like a blueprint for our cells, any damage to your DNA can prevent that cell from doing what it is programmed to do, which in the case of the egg, is make a healthy baby.

The interplay of these factors can lead to an increased risk of infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects associated with chromosomal abnormalities in older women compared to younger women.

The Relationship between Age and Egg Quality

Here are the main reasons for the increase in genetic abnormalities in female eggs over time.

As a woman ages, the eggs that have been present in her ovaries since birth also age. This aging process can lead to an increase in chromosomal abnormalities. For example, older eggs have a higher risk of improper chromosome separation during the cell division process (meiosis), leading to aneuploidies, where the resulting egg has an abnormal number of chromosomes. This is why conditions like Down syndrome become more common with maternal age.
The body’s mechanisms for repairing DNA damage are less effective in older eggs. Over-time, accumulated DNA damage that is not adequately repaired can lead to genetic abnormalities in the eggs.

Mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles within cells, also tend to function less efficiently with age. This decline can affect egg quality because developing embryos need a lot of energy, and any deficiency in energy production can impair development, leading to increased rates of embryo loss or abnormalities.

Exposure to environmental toxins, smoking, and even prolonged stress over a woman’s lifetime can contribute to the accumulation of genetic damage in eggs.
Hormonal changes that occur with aging can also affect the health and quality of the eggs.
Errors can occur more frequently in the DNA replication process as eggs age. These errors might not be corrected efficiently by the cellular machinery responsible for checking and repairing DNA, leading to genetic abnormalities.

With age, the ovaries may not be as effective at selecting the healthiest eggs for ovulation, increasing the chance that an egg with chromosomal abnormalities will be released and fertilised.

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