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Understanding Oocyte Development for Fertility

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Have you ever questioned what comes before the egg? An oocyte is an immature egg cell that matures into an oocyte (egg) ready for fertilization. In fertility, that would be the oocyte. 

The Beginning of Life

A female baby is born with all the oocytes –or egg cells, that she will ever have. At birth, this number is estimated to be around one million, but by the time a girl reaches puberty, this number has decreased to about 300,000. From adolescence to menopause, only about 300 - 400 eggs will get released through ovulation. As time goes on, fewer oocytes remain, increasing the risk of infertility with age. 

The Life Cycle of an Oocyte

Oocytes start to develop alongside you while you’re only in the embryonic stage. One might assume that oogenesis –or egg maturation– would happen over a month, considering how frequently you ovulate. Still, oocytes begin the journey of becoming an ovum long before that. 

So precisely, how do oocytes complete oogenesis?  

An oocyte begins as a primordial germ cell that travels into the gonads; in males, this means they end up in the testes; in females, this means the ovaries, where it then begins to multiply and become what is called oogonium. Through a process called mitosis, the oogonium transforms into primary oocytes, where cell maturation stalls out until you hit puberty. Once reproductive hormones kick in (in females, this is somewhere between the ages of 7 and 13), your oocytes begin to mature into secondary oocytes. From this point, they transform into ootids (by completing the ovulation process) and eventually (if successfully fertilized) become ovum that can divide to give rise to an embryo.

Ovulation and Anovulation

Ovulation is when your ovary releases a mature egg in preparation for pregnancy. In biology, we’re taught that a woman releases an egg, the male sperm fertilizes it, and ta-dah! You’ve successfully made a baby! But fertility isn’t always so matter-of-fact, is it? 

Read More: What Women Should Know About Their Ovaries

Sometimes the ovary fails to release a mature egg –when this happens, it’s known as anovulation. In an average 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation typically occurs about 14 days before your next menstrual period starts. During this time (approximately days 12-14 of your cycle), a woman is most likely to become pregnant. 

Tracking your ovulation is beneficial when trying to become pregnant. Some ways you can try and pinpoint your most fertile days are:

  • Calendar Method; uses the typical length of your cycle and the date of your last period to predict when you’re most likely to ovulate (recommended 6-month baseline)
  • Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Method; requires you to take your temperature when you wake up, looking for a sustained increase in temperature for at least three days as increased temperature signals ovulation (recommended 3-month baseline)
  • Cervical Mucus Method; tracking changes in color, texture, and amount of your cervical mucus throughout your cycle to determine when you’re ovulating (most accurate when combined with the BBT Method)
  • The Symptothermal Method; a combination of the BBT, cervical mucus, and calendar methods (recommended 3-month baseline)
  • Cervical Position Method; tracking the position, firmness, and openness of your cervix as it changes throughout your menstrual cycle (recommended 3-month baseline)
  • Ovulation Predictor Kits; vary in price but are easily accessible and available over the counter; here is our personal favorite (recommended 3-month baseline)
  • Saliva Ferning Tests; fern-like crystals (where the name ferning comes from) appear in your saliva while ovulating; you can purchase an observation kit here (recommended three-month baseline)
  • Utilize Fertility Tracking Apps

Anovulation is not rare. It can (and does) occur sporadically in healthy, premenopausal women everywhere. If you’re struggling to become pregnant while using a method to track your ovulation, there’s a chance you may be experiencing anovulation. 

Read More: The Role of Genes and Family History in Fertility

In this event, fertility drugs can stimulate the ovaries to release multiple oocytes during a menstrual cycle and increase your odds of becoming pregnant. This, however, also increases your odds of becoming pregnant with multiples. 

How Can I Nurture and Protect My Oocytes?

As we mature, our egg quality decreases, making ovulation and fertilization a challenge. Additionally, women are more likely to develop disorders that affect fertility, such as endometriosis (a condition in which cells similar to the lining of the uterus grow outside the uterus) and uterine fibroids (non-cancerous growths that appear in the uterus) with age. 

Read More: Endometriosis Explained: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

However, there are ways to increase your ovarian environment and boost the quality of your egg cells. Here’s how:

  • Consume a balanced diet of nutrient-dense foods; whole grains, lean meats, leafy greens, fresh fruit, and vegetables
  • Supplement your diet; our Fertility Gummies provide essential vitamins and nutrients to support ovulation, conception, and hormonal balance. 
  • Lower stress levels; stress releases cortisol and prolactin, which interfere with egg production. Meditation and yoga are great stress relievers, and introducing stress management supplements or teas like our Calm Tea can help to relieve everyday stress, fatigue, frustration, and tension-related headaches.
  • Maintain a healthy weight; obesity affects your hormonal balance, which can negatively impact ovulation.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Avoid cigarettes; the chemicals found in cigarettes speed up egg loss in your ovaries; they can also mutate your egg cell’s DNA, rendering them useless for conception.
  • Get restful sleep; melatonin not only supports oocyte quality, ovulation, and embryo development, but it also helps you achieve quality sleep. Our melatonin supplements help you to relax, fall asleep, and stay asleep while supporting reproductive health; we call that a win-win
  • Drink plenty of water; keeping your body hydrated helps your heart pump oxygenated blood more easily and improves cell health.

Oocytes play a considerable role in the female reproductive system. Without them and the lengthy scientific process they complete to become a fertilized egg, women could not become pregnant. 

Although age factors into the amount of viable, healthy oocytes a woman has, living a healthy lifestyle, taking appropriate dietary supplements, staying active, and eating nutrient-rich foods can improve the quality and longevity of these cells. 

Read More: PCOS vs. Endometriosis: What are the Differences?

Our supplements are designed to help the female reproductive system prepare for, acclimate to, and recover from pregnancy and increase general female health. No matter your goals or how you reach them, trust that we’re cheering you on every step of the way! 

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We recommend our Myo/Chiro Inositol 3.6:1 Blend: 60 Capsules for maximum support in regulating hormone levels, ovulation, fertility, skin, and menstrual cycles. Our Fertility Gummies are also the perfect complement to your reproductive journey.

As always, if you have any questions, reach out to our Customer Obsession Team.