The 90 days prior to conception is a crucial time in which the human egg (ovum) progresses through its final maturation.
The process is complicated yet intelligent and elegant.
When a female is born, her eggs have arrested development. When she begins puberty, a cohort of follicles (the structure that surrounds and nourishes the eggs) is activated and will begin to mature. The final maturation process takes 90-120 days. By the end of the maturation process, usually one follicle has become dominant and each month a mature egg should be released from the dominant follicle…aka ovulation. (Check out the posts on how to predict & confirm ovulation). At this point, the follicular tissue left behind after ovulation becomes the corpus luteum- a structure that produces the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is 100% necessary to maintain the endometrial lining of the uterus- if the egg is fertilized the lining needs to be stable for implantation to occur.
If the follicular health is not optimal, the quality of the corpus luteum can suffer and progesterone levels can be lower than ideal for implantation of the embryo or maintenance of early pregnancy. Poor egg quality can also affect the health of a developing embryo and is associated with infertility and even poor IVF outcomes.
This is why it’s SO IMPORTANT to start thinking about conception MONTHS before you actually start trying to conceive.
This is why it generally takes at least 3 cycles (90 days+) working with someone to start seeing major shifts in their cycles. There’s no one test that tells us exactly what your egg quality looks like without removing eggs (like with IVF retrieval) but there are a couple of tests that can guide us and a handful of studies done with women going through IVF showing certain nutrients and therapies have the potential to improve egg quality. During this time we have the ability to affect egg quality by improving nutrition, increasing circulation to the ovaries and pelvic region, and decreasing inflammation and stress.
Some practical tips during this 90 day window:
- Take a good quality prenatal.
- Reduce toxin exposures- plastics, pesticides, perfumes, air fresheners, fabric softeners, parabens, and phthalates are all known for disrupting hormones
- Eat real Whole Foods and tons of veggies. Minimize processed food, sugar, alcohol and caffeine. There’s no one right answer for everyone when it comes to nutrition. Generally speaking the more nutrient dense foods you eat, the healthier your egg quality.
- Exercise in moderation (goal of 180 min per week). This can improve circulation, improve insulin sensitivity, decrease inflammation and aid in riding the body of toxins (via sweat).
- If you experience irregular cycles (21-35 days is considered normal), painful, too light or too heavy or clotted periods or aren’t sure if you’re ovulating, talk to a doctor who is well trained in preconception health and fertility who can help you with a preconception plan.
- Prioritize sleep- 7.5-9 hrs of it per night can help optimize hormone health.
Some additional tools that I use in practice during the 90 days before conception:
- Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a great tool for relieving stress and increasing circulation to the pelvic region. Most patients find that acupuncture is a relaxing and painless procedure. Historically it has been used for thousands of years for all sorts of ailments including hormonal imbalances and infertility.
- Yoga for fertility. Specific poses and sequences used at different phases of the cycle can help to regulate hormones and again, increase circulation to the pelvic organs.
- Low Level Laser Therapy. A phenomenal way to decrease inflammation, improve mitochondrial health and improve circulation.
Is this the year you’re hoping to conceive? If so, it’s never too early to start working towards better health & improve fertility outcomes along the way.
Don’t miss out on the upcoming Fertility Intentions Workshop
When: Friday, January 7th, 12 pm MST/2 pm EST
What: a 60-minute workshop to ensure you are getting the support you need on your fertility journey
Dr. Katie Rose offers 1-1 and group fertility support in Tucson, AZ and through virtual consultations.
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