Studies show that genetics may be a contributing factor in about 8 per cent of couples who are having infertility problems or repeated miscarriages.
This is why many infertility specialists have couples undergo genetic testing as they search for reasons and solutions to why they can’t get pregnant.
Genetic causes of infertility are more common in men than in women. Genetic testing may be recommended to you if all other fertility tests are proving to be unsuccessful in determining the causes of your infertility.
Once you started having problems getting pregnant your doctor will have taken a complete family history of both you and your partner. For the most part, the role that genetics play in infertility is still being researched.
However, the question still remains, “is infertility genetic”?
What is Genetic Testing for Infertility?
Genetic testing looks at the DNA which is the something like the body’s chemical computer that contains instructions for all of the body’s functions.
DNA testing examines whether there may be changes and damage to an individual’s genes that may lead to disease, illness, and even infertility.
Since women and men can both have infertility issues they should each be tested so doctors can better determine the potential cause of a couple’s inability to get pregnant.
Your infertility specialist may recommend genetic testing for several reasons. If other tests have not come back with a cause for your infertility, you and your partner will benefit from genetic testing.
As well, if you’ve been undergoing infertility treatment without success, genetic testing may be able to uncover an underlying factor that you and your partner need to address.
Finding out if there is a genetic cause for your infertility can help you make informed decisions about how to manage your fertility.
Genetic Testing for Men
Genetic testing may be recommended for men who are lacking in sufficient sperm and who have already undergone testing for blockage.
Genetic testing can help to identify if there is any DNA damage or fragmentation, or if there are any chromosomal defects.
While surgery can be used to correct and repair some obstructions to the male reproductive tract, genetic abnormalities may be impossible to treat and correct.
A small blood sample will be evaluated for any chromosomal or genetic abnormalities.
It’s very important to remember that some infertility treatments may be able to overcome chromosomal or genetic issues, but there is still the chance that these abnormalities can be passed on to your child.
If this is the case, genetic counselling will be provided for you so that you can make informed and educated decisions about getting pregnant.
Making the Decision for Genetic Testing
Deciding to go for genetic testing is a very personal decision. You’ll need to consider the expense as well as the implications of the final outcome.
Are you and your partner prepared to accept that there may be a genetic link that is going to prevent you from ever getting pregnant or carrying a baby to term?
Identifying a genetic factor will not necessarily increase your odds of having a successful pregnancy.
If you decide to undergo genetic testing you’ll be referred to a genetic counsellor who will work closely with your infertility specialist in offering you options for your infertility issues.
The role of genetic counselling when it comes to infertility is to address the reasons why couples are not able to conceive. Some of the factors that affect genetic risk include age, family history, and the current diagnoses for infertility.
ART (assisted reproductive technologies) is becoming more and more advanced all the time, increasing a couple’s chances of conceiving naturally.
Each year more research is conducted about the role that genetics have in how our bodies work.
The Good News About Genetics and Infertility
For the most part, fertility problems are not genetic. However, one female infertility issue that can be genetic is endometriosis.
Endometriosis happens when endometrial tissue that is found in the lining of the uterus starts to grow on the outside of the uterus, such as in the pelvic and abdominal area.
Endometriosis can have few if any symptoms or it can be very painful. Either situation can be a contributing factor to your infertility issues. Genetics will not affect the quality of your eggs.
The quality of your eggs is most often determined by your age. As well, scarred or blocked fallopian tubes are not a genetic issue.
Other conditions that may be affected by genetics are uterine fibroids and problems with the thyroid; however, studies on this are not conclusive.
For male infertility, genetics come into the picture when there is a low sperm count or the sperm is damaged. Again, testing for male infertility caused by genetics is easily done and can rule out many other infertility factors.
If your partner’s sperm is affected and damaged by genetics, you have the option of using a sperm donor. Remember that there are options and treatments available to help you conceive.