Does Infertility Run in Families?

Does Infertility Run in Families?

About 15% of couples throughout the world are considered either subfertile or infertile. Subfertility applies to couples who’ve been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for a year when the woman is under 35 or six months if she’s over 35. Infertility is a medical diagnosis.

Peter L. Chang, MD, a fertility expert and founder of Noble Fertility Center in New York City’s Murray Hill neighborhood, diagnoses and treats infertility. Many factors may be involved in your individual case of infertility, and genetics could be one of them. If someone else in your family — a parent or sibling — had trouble getting pregnant, you may, too.

Genetic syndromes affect fertility

An analysis of studies that examine the role of genes and fertility identified 65 genes that affect female or male infertility; 23 of these genes are related to syndromic causes of infertility. These are various inherited syndromes and conditions that have been shown to affect fertility, such as:

Sickle-cell anemia and other inherited syndromes may also interfere with your fertility, particularly if they delayed your onset of puberty. 

Male infertility affected by genes

Although popular perception of infertility usually focuses on a woman’s difficulty in becoming pregnant, male infertility is just as much of a problem. When a man is infertile, the most common reason is due to malformed sperm or an insufficient number of sperm.

Researchers have identified 26 genes that affect the quality of a man’s sperm. Most of the genetic mutations cause abnormalities in the sperm’s shape. However, even azoospermia — the complete absence of sperm — can be caused by genetic mutations.

Another five genes affect the onset of puberty or development of the gonads in males. The mutations may reduce circulating levels of testosterone and gonadotropins, which are necessary for the full development of the penis and testes.

Female infertility affected by genes

Eleven identified genes may affect how a woman’s eggs mature. Even if she has sufficient eggs and releases them regularly, if they don’t mature, they can’t be fertilized.

Some genetic mutations may delay the onset of puberty in girls. Others may cause a female baby to be born without the normal number of eggs in her ovaries. If you have low ovarian reserves, you may be helped by fertility treatments that help you release and mature multiple eggs in a single cycle.

Genes are just part of the story

If you inherited genetic mutations that affect your infertility, that’s not the end of the road toward the baby of your dreams. We may conduct gene testing as part of your fertility workup. Depending on the type of mutation you inherited, therapies may correct hormonal imbalances or compensate for too few eggs or sperm.

If we fertilize your eggs through in vitro fertilization (IVF), we can test the resulting embryos for the genetic mutations or syndromes that affect you and your partner’s fertility. Based on your wishes, we could implant only the embryos that are free of the mutations so your children have an easier road to their families than you had to yours.

Whether you’re subfertile or you’ve been diagnosed with infertility, a fertility work-up — including gene testing, if necessary — helps you find the answers and treatments you need to move forward. To schedule your consultation, contact Noble Fertility Center by phone or use our online booking tool today.

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