If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, can you really blame your parents? Although it is a fact that genetic abnormalities, such as chromosomal aneuploidy, structural defects, genetic mutations, can cause infertility in both males and females, the fact is that your family history may not essentially be among the biggest factors affecting your fertility. 

For instance, if your mother had trouble conceiving you, would it affect your own fertility? The answer depends on several factors. Some issues such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis can be genetic, but beyond specific problems, it’s not a rule of thumb that your mother’s biology bears on your risk for infertility or miscarriage. 

About 10–15 percent of couples that suffer idiopathic (unknown causes) infertility likely have a genetic etiology as one of the causes. For instance, male infertility could be as a result of genetic factors impairing sperm formation and chromosomal anomalies such as Klinefelter syndrome, which is a genetic condition affecting males, but is often not diagnosed until adulthood. It results when a boy is born with an extra copy of the X chromosome.

Female infertility also includes chromosomal anomalies like Turner syndrome, which is a rare, chromosomal disorder in which a female is born with only one X chromosome. Turner syndrome results from a missing or incomplete sex chromosome. Other issues are premature ovarian insufficiency, endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome, PCOS.

It is now well established that infertility is the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected, regular sexual intercourse for women under 35. If you’re a woman over 35 and haven’t gotten pregnant within six months of trying, consult a reproductive expert that can help you determine the possible causes of infertility. 

In this environment tubal factors are topmost among causes of infertility but others include ovulatory problems. For instance, a condition such as PCOS is a common cause of anovulation. Family history can play a role in PCOS which can impede your ability to conceive, and it runs in families. So, if your mother had PCOS, you may be more likely to have it too, and it could be playing a role in your ability to conceive.

The more of these causes that can be identified and addressed, the more likely it is that infertility treatment will be effective. Even genetic factors can now often be overcome with proper treatment protocols. Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis PGD/PGS/can often be used to prevent the passage of genetic disorders when used in conjunction with IVF.

Don’t be discouraged if your parents had trouble, and don’t get a false sense of security if they got pregnant immediately they tried. Talk with your mother about exactly what happened and discuss it with your own gynaecologist. If your parents don’t know what the problem was – and they might not – then do what you can now to improve your odds later. 

If you would like to learn more about the genetic factors that influence infertility, schedule a consultation with a qualified fertility physician. However, infertility can rarely be attributed solely to genetic factors. In most cases, there are multiple causes of infertility. 

Infertility could also be the result of other problems with the reproductive organs, such as blocked fallopian tubes that may be due to endometriosis or pelvic infections. Uterine fibroids (growths of the muscle of the uterus) can also be a culprit. Both endometriosis and uterine fibroids can run in families.

For women, age is a big contributing factor. The likelihood that you will become pregnant during any particular menstrual cycle begins to decline in your early 30s. As you age, the number of your eggs declines. 

In addition, the number of abnormal eggs increases, which also increases the risk of miscarriage and Down’s syndrome. The number of eggs is related to the age of menopause which also runs in families. There are particular genetic disorders such as fragile X that are associated with the early loss of eggs and there is often a family history of developmental delay in males.

For men particularly, the amount or health of the sperm is the main issue for infertility. Men can carry genetic disorders such as loss of part of the Y chromosome or extra chromosomes as a cause of low sperm counts. These disorders can be passed on to their offspring.

It is not known what causes infertility in about one-seventh of women. Family history, probably, only plays a small role in a woman’s ability to conceive. But while a family history of many genetic conditions may not interfere with your ability to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term, you may still want to have that knowledge. Genetic counselling can give you a clearer picture.

Your family history, including PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, early menopause, developmental delay in males, and low sperm counts can all be diagnosed through careful investigation. You and your partner can also undergo screening to assess your risk of passing down a genetic condition to your future offspring.

If you have the choice, having children early is the most important factor. Your lifestyle is totally under your control, but be aware that it can interfere with fertility. Lifestyle and habits affect the quality and function of sperm as well. 

If you’ve been trying unsuccessfully for a number of months to get pregnant, it may be time to see your care provider who can assess you for different medical conditions that may be the root of your inability to conceive and provide options for how to proceed. If you would like to learn more about the genetic factors that influence infertility, schedule a consultation with a qualified fertility physician today.

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