A good quality embryo is a factor greatly influencing the chances of successful pregnancy. High quality embryos are, of course, a result of the fertilization of good quality gametes — egg cells and sperm.
studies show that both somatic cells and germ cells are affected by our surroundings — behaviors we practice, foods we consume, and even certain chemicals we are exposed to in natural environment. here are some major examples.
Smoking: female smokers are likely to experience a decline in pregnancy rate from successful in-vitro fertilization (IVF) by approximately 50% and an increase in miscarriage by about 25%. It is also found that smoking will not only affect the implantation and growth of embryos but also egg cells. this can be convinced by the fact that non-smoking couples who receive eggs from smoking donors have a lower rate of successful IVF than the couples receiving eggs from non-smoking women.
Moreover, smoking also affects the quality of sperm. It is found that smoking men are less likely to contribute to the success of both IVF and ICSI.
Alcohol: it is found that couples who drink alcoholic beverages tend to reduce the success rate of IVF and increase the odds of miscarriage, too.
Diets: the foods we eat have both the beneficial and adverse effects on our cells. take red meats as an example. Large amount of red meats (flesh of large animal such as cows, pigs, sheep and so on) should not be eaten because the meat is proteindense, harder to digest and contains higher saturated fat than white meats (fish, chicken, frogs, etc.).
When excessive amount of red meat is consumed, our cells will create too many free radicals which in turn can be toxic to cells. however, red meat contains more nutrients and is a good source of protein to help build and repair muscle — the feature cannot be found in white meat. therefore, proper amount of red meat is recommended for consumption. In addition, the dryheat cooking methods, such as grilling, roasting, baking or deep-frying, are more likely to generate the accumulation of free radicals than the moist cooking techniques such as boiling or steaming. eating vegetables and fruits will also be very beneficial to the body because they are rich in vitamins, such as vitamins C and e to help reduce DNAstrand breaks in sperm, and contain large quantity of antioxidants.
Coffee: it is found that women who drink several cups a day are associated with a reduced pregnancy rate. Yet, some studies found that drinking coffee does not impact women’s pregnancy rate. As a result, it is still argued by scientists whether drinking coffee is associated with the success of getting pregnant or not. however, it is suggested that women who want to have children or are pregnant should not drink more than one cup of coffee per day.
Obesity: women with a body mass index (BMI) of over 35 are found to have about 1.2-1.5 times less chances of pregnancy than those with a normal BMI. In addition to a reduction in the rate of pregnancy, obesity is found to have an impact on an increase
Exercise: an appropriate exercise is a workout that increases the heart rate by 50% of the heart rate at rest. this means working out at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. It is found that a proper workout will improve the quality of reproductive cells, both sperm and egg cells, because exercises will reduce free radicals by creating more antioxidants.
In addition, the advanced the age is, the worsened the quality of reproductive cells, particularly egg cells, will be. this is due to the fact that female gametes are produced at the maximum rate when she is still unborn in her mother’s womb. After that, they will be gradually deteriorating as the age is advancing and new ones will not be produced again unlike sperm, which can be produced throughout a man’s lifetime. As a result, at the advanced age, egg cells will be experiencing more problems than sperm cells.
Normally, every cell in our body contains mitochondria, known as a cellular power plant converting the energy available for the cell to execute a specific task. since mitochondria are very important to the functioning of the cells but are easily destroyed by free radicals — derived from mitochondrial energy generation and external factors such as diet, smoking mentioned earlier, there are a large number of mitochondrion in the cell and they can repair themselves in the event that a damage occurs.
However, as we are aging, free radicals are also increasing. they are the by-product of energy generation process in the cell itself as well as from the environment as explained above. these radicals will damage the mitochondria, causing a decline in energy metabolism within the cell, resulting in the worsened quality cell due to the weakened execution of such task.
Free radicals are a kind of atoms in our body. they cause adverse effects to us in different ways due to their instability. In stable molecules in general, electron pairs are present in the outermost shell and gain stability.
But as free radicals are formed by the fission of a substance creating instable atoms due to the lack of electron pairs, they have to wrest from other molecules the electrons to gain their stability while the molecules with the stolen electrons will be instable and later become the free radicals instead. these new free radicals will further snatch electrons from other molecules, causing a chain reaction.
In normal conditions, our body has a control system by producing antioxidants to get rid of free radicals. If there are too many free radicals that all of them cannot be eliminated, damages to cells will occur, particularly in the DNA, causing mutation and deterioration in the cells.
Thus, there are two ways to maintain the good quality of our cells, including egg cells and sperm cells. the one way is to reduce the amount of free radicals — which are the key trigger to attack the cells — by adjusting behaviors: abstain from drinking alcohol; quit smoking; limit coffee intake; and avoid red meats cooked by grilling, roasting or baking. the other way is to increase the amount of antioxidants in the body to be adequate for eliminating the free radicals by exercising, eating fruits and vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, onions, pomegranates, and so on, or taking antioxidant supplements. There are several antioxidants but the one with a research-based evidence supporting its feature to maintain the quality for egg cells and sperm is CoQ10. In addition to being an antioxidant, CoQ10 is also an important component of the mitochondrion in our cells. It acts as a catalyst for cellular energy production, essential for executing specific tasks of the cells. For example, egg cells need energy to fertilize with sperm and in embryo splitting and implantation.
The study conducted with rats found that taking CoQ10 helps slow down the decline in the amount of egg cells and delay the deterioration of good quality egg cells caused as the age advances. Furthermore, the study conducted with men also found that taking 100-200 mg of CoQ10 daily helps improve the sperm motility and morphology.
Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Reproductive Medicine
JETANIN Journal Vol.7 No.3