Fertility Facts: Don’t forget about your follicles! Their development might be the key
I hope the information I provide this week will get you thinking like it did for me when I read it.
IN a 43 page research paper titled,
Initial and Cyclic Recruitment of Ovarian Follicles
Elizabeth A. McGee2 and Aaron J. W. Hsueh
Division of Reproductive Biology, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305-5317 USA, I found some interesting information that I want to share with you.
I frequently discuss the regeneration of cells in our bodies, including the eggs, ovaries, endometrial lining as well as the semen and sperm. And that it takes time for this process to happen. The time it takes is different for every cell and this little fact can make all the difference to your fertility.
When I discuss cells involved in the reproductive system, I am including a structure that doesn’t often get much press, i.e. the follicle. Frequently the focus is on creating “good eggs” and little focus is given to the follicle, even though this is what the egg grows up in and what is responsible for progesterone production (called the corpus luteum) in the second half of the cycle to create a healthy uterine lining and in the first trimester of a pregnancy before the placenta takes over progesterone production.
Focus is mainly on the health of the eggs and basically the follicle is forgotten. By ignoring the follicle we are ignoring a huge component of fertility. The follicle provides the environment for the egg to grow up in. Within the follicle is the follicular fluid which contains hormones and nutrients to enhance its development and even free radicals that can promote degeneration and could negatively impact egg health.
Think of it this way, if a person grows up in an environment (think follicle) that doesn’t have the support needed to create a healthy adult i.e if they didn’t have the proper nutrition, or were exposed to heavy metals, chemicals, pollution,etc that type of environment could impact that person’s health. The overall wellbeing or health of that person is not likely to be optimal. The same is likely true of the structure that maintains the environment for the egg (yep, I am talking about the follicle).
Another example to consider is a pregnant woman and her baby. I know this often isn’t something you want to think about, but hang in there with me for a moment. You know through research that if a woman (representing the follicle or environment that the baby grows up in) is smoking and drinking or exposed to drugs, or doesn’t have enough nutrients such as folic acid, this can impact the health of the baby. Therefore if the mother doesn’t create a healthy environment for the baby, i.e drugs, cigarettes and or alcohol, then the baby may not be as healthy as it could be.
My point is then, if the follicle (the structure that provides the environment for the egg to grow in) isn’t healthy enough, then should we expect the egg to be as healthy as it could be?
If you have had difficulty with progesterone production, a short luteal phase, difficulty with implantation or told you have poor egg health, then this is really important information for you.
Today, the follicle and its health, deserves a bit of our attention.
Let’s discuss for a minute its development. Does it just appear on the ovary each month? Well actually 10-15 little follicles (on average)in total come up on the ovaries each month, but only one becomes the dominant follicle which eventually releases an egg. The dominant follicle sends a signal to the other follicles to say “Look sisters, I got this one covered. Its my turn to release the egg” and the other follicles go through a process called atresia and get reabsorbed back into the ovary. (IVF Drugs stop this process called atresia by the way, that is why so many follicles come up on the ovary and hopefully most or many of them would have eggs).
I guess before I read the article cited at the beginning of this tip years ago, I just thought the follicles went through a maturation process along with the ovary and it took around 14 days. Well, I was a little off… Your follicles actually begin to grow up to 8 menstrual cycles before they ever come up as a dominant follicle on the ovary. Yep, you read that right, it can take 8 (months) cycles for a follicle to develop fully in humans according to the researchers cited at the beginning of this tip.
Now, the last parts of the maturation of the follicle involve growing from a late secondary follicle to a preovulatory follicle (including an antral follicle that has a place to carry an egg and then the Graafian follicle) that can eventually release the egg.
This last part of the follicle’s maturation process takes over 85 days, roughly 3 months! But as discussed the 5 months before this 85 days/3 months is likely to be equally important in influencing the health of the follicle and thus the egg (5months plus 85 days/approx 3 months = the 8 months I previously talked about)
I think this is extremely useful information for IVF participants as well as those who are trying naturally and it goes along with our recommendation of giving yourself a minimumof 3 months or 90 days of being on program before going into a procedure or starting medications. Actually 6-8 months would be the optimal time frame and (not coinincidentally) is the average amount of time it takes most of the couples in our program over the years to balance out their bodies and create a pregnancy. Many couples however have difficulty waiting the 3 months so often times 6 to 8 months seems unbearable. But can you see why it may be important?
That 3 month minimum of getting your body in optimal health could improve the health of the follicles as well and improve your chance to conceive. And if the 3 months doesn’t prove to be enough then giving that additional 5 months a serious consideration, may be key to improving the situation.
We also have our new program that if you are having IVF in only 1-2 months then a special antioxidant program for you will atleast give you some additional nutrients in the system to hopefully influence egg and embryo health. We have had some excellent reports about this program from our patients.
In our clinic we see improvement with many couples on our herbs and our very high quality supplments called the Essentials (recently featured on Today Tonight as the number one supplement in Australia and New Zealand), telling us they were producing healthier eggs in their IVF cycles, and reported much less side effects than other cycles they had undergone. Many guys reported producing healthier sperm. These comments are usually made by the couples that follow all of our recommendations (including addressing emotional health as well). I think this supports the fact that mother nature does need some time to work with you to help improve your situation.
And if you are thinking, I will give up the cigarettes, the alcohol, the sugar, the extra caffeine or quit my stressful job that I hate when a pregnancy occurs, remember all of these things could be effecting the health of the follicle and egg along the way and contributing to your fertility and the health of the little one you are trying to create. So if you find yourself saying these things to yourself, stop using pregnancy as your goal to start over or change your life. Do it now to improve your situation for the future. Give the follicles a chance to get fit and help to support the most optimal development of the eggs to contribute to a healthy embryo. Same goes for your swimmers guys. You want them in the best possible shape to not only get to the egg but to be healthy enough to contribute to a viable embryo.
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