One of the more complex concepts that we strive to help our IVF patients understand is that of “egg quality.” On its surface, it may seem like a simple enough idea. You should be able to distinguish the quality of an egg simply by looking at it or through some empirical measurement, right? Unfortunately, it is not quite so easy. During consultations with IVF patients at our fertility center in Dallas, IVF and egg quality are concepts that are discussed in detail so that patients are fully educated about the procedure they are undergoing. Obviously, egg quality plays a pivotal role in the success of IVF, so it is important that patients understand what we mean when we make reference to this phrase.
What is “egg quality”?
First, let us establish what egg quality is not. Egg quality does not refer to how an embryo appears in the laboratory. In fact, an embryo can look perfectly healthy and not implant. Likewise, it does not refer to its receptiveness to fertilization by sperm, nor to the observation of its initial embryo division.
Egg quality refers to the probability of embryo implantation, based partially on the number of eggs a woman has remaining for the future, or her ovarian reserve. This is related to, but not completely defined by, her age. Likewise, while embryo reserve is a good indicator of egg quality, quantity does not always equal quality. There are women who have a small number of high-quality eggs and who are able, therefore, to achieve pregnancy through IVF.
There are tests for egg supply, but there are not currently tests for egg quality, per se. The ultimate test of egg quality lies in the embryo implantation, making it a retrospective test, unfortunately. Nevertheless, as stated above, a small number of eggs does not necessarily indicate that a woman will not achieve successful pregnancy through IVF. A woman will, however, stand a better chance of success if she has a larger number of eggs. The odds of having good quality eggs will simply be in her favor.
Does egg quality necessarily diminish with age?
Egg quality is undoubtedly affected by age, and there is absolutely a relationship between age and egg quality. However, it would be incorrect to state that an older woman cannot have high-quality eggs, even if her ovarian reserve is smaller than a younger woman’s. An older woman in good health with little stress may actually have better quality eggs than a younger woman with more eggs but poorer health and greater stress. This would be unusual, but certainly possible.
Can a person with poor egg quality become pregnant?
Poor egg quality may be a factor in your infertility, but it may not be the single defining factor. In fact, while poor egg quality can make successful pregnancy more difficult to achieve, it may not make it impossible. Many people with poor egg quality successfully become pregnant. Nevertheless, if you suffer from poor egg quality, and efforts to improve the quality of your eggs do not work, then you may want to consider using donor eggs.
Learn More about IVF and Egg Quality
To learn more about IVF and egg quality, please contact the Center for Assisted Reproduction today.