What Every Woman Should Know About Her Eggs

Dr. Deborah Smith of Rocky Mountain Fertility Center in Parker, Colorado, and Rapid City, South Dakota, is a top-level Reproductive Endocrinologist whose team enjoys one of the highest success rates in the nation for infertility treatments.

The group has also earned an outstanding reputation for developing a patient-friendly environment that fosters a genuine understanding of the therapies available to assist with fertility. Many of these therapies start with gauging the quantity and quality of a woman’s eggs.

Understanding the basics of egg availability

While it’s still up for debate in some circles, most scientists agree that a woman is born with all the egg cells her ovaries will ever produce. For most women, that’s an astonishing 1-2 million eggs at birth.

By puberty, the number of available eggs has dropped to somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000. This supply continues to decline with age and reaches an estimated 25,000 by your late 30s. 

However, usually only one egg reaches maturity and ovulates during a typical cycle. Most women ovulate about 300 mature eggs during their reproductive lifespans.

What happens to all the extra eggs?

We know that smoking and certain cancer treatments can destroy eggs. Some medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), also cause hormonal imbalances that can interfere with or even prevent egg maturation and subsequent ovulation.

Otherwise, scientists don’t yet understand why a woman can expect, as part of the natural aging process, to lose about 1,000 immature eggs per month from the start of her first menstrual cycle.

What causes an egg to ovulate?

Starting in puberty, various hormone levels within the female bloodstream rise at the start of the menstrual cycle and stimulate maturation of a certain number of eggs within the ovaries. This causes small fluid-filled sacs (follicles) to develop and surround the maturing eggs. The number of eggs undergoing development varies from one woman to the next, but typically just one follicle per cycle becomes dominant and eventually extrudes its egg (ovulates).

How does this relate to female fertility?

The fewer eggs available for ovulation, the lower your odds of becoming pregnant. An overall healthy 30-year-old who is trying to conceive, for instance, has a 20% chance of getting pregnant during one cycle. By age 40, that drops to 5% per cycle.

Aging eggs are also more prone to chromosomal errors which may affect ovulation, fertilization, or the successful implantation of a developing embryo. This factor also increases the risk of birth defects in children born to older women.

What fertility treatments offer

Many of the advanced treatments we provide at Rocky Mountain Fertility Center help overcome fertility challenges associated with low egg reserves caused by aging and other issues. 

We can, for instance, successfully treat hormonal imbalances caused by PCOS and other conditions that prevent ovulation. Depending on your circumstances, Dr. Smith may also recommend hormone therapy to stimulate the development of multiple viable eggs per cycle (ovulation induction). These mature eggs are then collected and used for in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Younger women who wish to put off having a child until their 30s or early 40s can take advantage of the egg freezing (cryopreservation) services we offer. This allows us to gather mature unfertilized eggs from your ovaries and safely store them for future use. Women facing cancer treatment may also consider cryopreservation.

For more information about egg freezing or any of the infertility treatments we offer here at Rocky Mountain Fertility Center, schedule an appointment today.

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