In this week’s blog I wanted to talk about a book that has become my bible over the past year. If you are having problems conceiving with or without PCOS, I can’t recommend ‘It Starts With The Egg’ by Rebecca Fett' highly enough. When it comes to infertility literature the fact that the author has a degree in molecular biotechnology and biochemistry and knows her stuff is definitely a thumbs up in my book.
Drawing from her own fertility experience, Fett tells us that after starting trying for a family she found out the devastating news that at under 30 years old she was suffering from diminished ovarian reserve, yielding only a few eggs during her first IVF cycle. After asking her doctors if there were any supplements she could take to improve her egg quality and not receiving much guidance, Fett put her degree to use and started researching recent ground breaking studies on how women can improve their egg quality. Having then put her findings into practice, her next IVF cycle produced 22 eggs, of which 19 fertilized to become a good quality blastocyst. The results were simply unheard of and were the best her fertility clinic had ever seen in a single cycle.
Thankfully, you don’t need a degree in molecular biotechnology to understand this book – it’s really easy to read, factual and super informative. It covers an array of supplements but for the purpose of this blog, I am going to focus on those Fett recommends for PCOS.
PBA’s & Toxins
Firstly whether you are suffering from PCOS or not you need to ditch the PBA’s which stands for Bisphenol A. This nasty chemical is found in everything from certain plastic containers lurking in your kitchen, to paper receipts. Over the past 15 years’ study after study has shown that exposure to even small amounts of BPA’s can cause serious health problems – but namely they can really effect egg quality. Studies have also shown that women with PCOS have higher levels of PBA in their blood stream. This means it’s even more important to ditch all the plastic in your kitchen and replace it with glass. To reduce toxins I replaced all my cleaning products with ones containing natural substances. Waitrose’s own natural cleaning products are reasonably priced and really good quality.
Fett recommends an array of food supplements for egg quality, but specifically the ones that are useful for women who suffer from PCOS are; Myo-inositol, Alpha-Lipoic Acid and N-Acetyl Cysteine.
Fett explains ‘Myo-inositol is particularly helpful for restoring ovulation and improving egg quality in women with PCOS or insulin resistance. It may also reduce the miscarriage risk associated with insulin resistance’.
Fett goes onto ask the questions why is myo-inositol so beneficial for women with PCOS. She says you have to go back to the causes behind the condition. It has been a well-known fact that PCOS is associated with high insulin levels, and it is these high insulin levels that have a direct role in causing infertility in women with PCOS by increasing testosterone in the ovaries. Stabilise insulin level and the idea is that ovulation and fertility is restored.
Fett lists a number of very promising scientific studies showing the benefits on myo-inositol and fertility with women with PCOS and this has been my number 1 go-to food supplement that has helped regulate my own ovulation.
Fett tells us ‘Alpha-Lipoic Acid is another supplement that has well-established antioxidant properties and may therefore benefit egg quality’.
She goes onto say that ‘Alpha-Lipoic Acid is also a promising supplement because it is found naturally in mitochondria, where it assists in energy production (within the egg)’.
Specifically to PCOS, she says ‘There is also some direct evidence that alpha-lipoic acid may specifically improve fertility in women with PCOS, with one study finding that women taking 600mg twice a day for 16 weeks had improved insulin sensitivity and began ovulating normally’.
Again we see that insulin is a major culprit in disrupting ovulation in women with PCOS. It’s so important to get this under control and as a result improve infertility.
This is another food supplement that I use on a daily basis. Fett says N-acetyl cysteine ‘may improve ovulation in women with PCOS by improving insulin response’ and ‘other researchers have seen that N-acetyl cysteine does indeed reduce insulin and testosterone in PCOS’.
She goes on to say that a clinical study found that ‘women with PCOS who on average had suffered from infertility for more that 4 years took N-acetyl cysteine and the ovulation inducing drug Clomid for 5 days. After treatment, 45% of women taking the N-acetyl cysteine ovulated, compared to 28% in the placebo group. In addition, 21% of the women taking the N-acetyl cysteine became pregnant compared to 9% of women taking the placebo’.
The book obviously goes into so much more detail and Fett’s findings are fascinating. The bottom line is that you can improve egg quality. It takes 3 months for an egg to ovulate, so it is important you put Fett’s advice into practice at least 3 months before trying to conceive to give yourself the best chance for conception and reduce the risk of miscarriage.
Follow this link to buy 'It Starts With The Egg' on Amazon.
Good luck with your ttc journey!