Our genetics are the roadmap of our heredity. Where did you get your big brown eyes? Why is your hair fine and straight? Who gave you those freckles? It’s all right there in your DNA. Your genes make you the wondrous, beautiful, and unique being you are today.
But what about the not-so-great things? Things like high cholesterol or genetic predisposition for developing any number of diseases including some cancers also get passed along with those long lashes in our DNA. Even issues with your fertility may relate to your genetics. But how big of a role do genes play in fertility? Let’s find out.
Genetics and How They Affect Fertility
According to World Health Organization statistics one in six people experience infertility in their lifetime. Infertility stems from many different causes. The age of the mother plays a significant role in the viability and reserve of their eggs. Injury, treatment for a medical issue and hormonal imbalances affect both male and female fertility. And there are certain conditions influenced by genetics as well.
Ovulation issues caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, play a role in female infertility. Symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular Menstrual Cycles: Unpredictable periods, periods that last longer than five to seven days or cycles that are much longer than the typical 28-day time frame may indicate PCOS.
- Hormonal Irregularities: Too much of the hormone androgen may make conception difficult. A sign of too much androgen is a condition called hirsutism which presents with facial hair and chest hair, severe acne, and male pattern baldness.
- Inflammation in Your Ovaries: PCOS causes inflammation in your ovaries which may result in immature and non-viable follicles making pregnancy nearly impossible.
Doctors link PCOS to a few different causes. One such cause is insulin resistance which affects hormonal balance. Long-term low-grade inflammatory response in your body is another cause of PCOS. This can also link to heart and blood vessel issues if left undiagnosed. And recently doctors linked PCOS to your heredity. If your close relative (mother, sister, aunt, grandmother) has a history of PCOS your risk for developing the condition increases. There is a definite genetic connection to PCOS.
Endometriosis is a condition that complicates fertility for many women. Your doctor diagnoses endometriosis after finding blockages and scarring caused by the presence of endometrial tissue, which mimics the lining of the uterus, outside of the uterus and attached to your other organs. The scarring and inflammation cause by endometriosis lowers your opportunity for natural conception.
Like PCOS, doctors find a genetic component that relates to endometriosis. If you have a close female relative with endometriosis your risk for developing the same increases.
Other Genetic Conditions That May Complicate Female Fertility
There are certain gene-related disorders that contribute to female infertility. These disorders relate to changes in your DNA caused by one or more genetic issues. In many cases, these conditions link back to one or both of your biological parents. They are:
- Fragile X Permutation: A specific change to a gene found on the X chromosome changes the condition of your ovaries. The change results in less productive ovaries which limits your fertility as your ovarian reserve is greatly diminished. Fragile X Permutation, also causes premature menopause.
- Turner Syndrome: Females born with Turner syndrome carry a malformed or missing X chromosome. As a result, your ovaries fail to develop or function properly. Like Fragile X, Turner Syndrome causes ovarian failure prior to age 40.
- Kallmann Syndrome: Puberty depends on your pituitary gland’s production of gonadotropin-releasing hormones (GnRH). Both male and female sexual development rely on this hormone. Gene changes of Kallmann Syndrome impair the pituitary gland’s ability for making this essential hormone. Lack of sufficient GnRH delays puberty. GnRH facilitates the production of estrogen and progesterone which are both necessary to female reproduction. In males, lower levels, or the absence of GnRH derails production of testosterone necessary to sperm production.
Genetic Conditions Affecting Male Fertility
Male factor infertility often relates to sperm count, motility and morphology. In addition to Kallmann Syndrome, sperm quality may relate to some genetic conditions and disorders such as the following:
- Klinefelter syndrome: The genetic disorder Klinefelter syndrome causes an extra X chromosome in males. It’s the most common of chromosomal-related male infertility causes and interferes with sperm production. Some males with Klinefelter syndrome make no sperm whatsoever.
- Micro-deletions of Y Chromosomes: Those assigned male at birth are the only ones typically born with the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome makes up male sexual characteristics. For those born with a micro deletion part of the Y chromosome is missing. That results in issues with sperm count, motility (movement) and morphology (shape). Some males born with micro deletions produce no sperm.
- Changes to The Gene that Causes Cystic Fibrosis: Some males who carry the gene that leads to cystic fibrosis. While some of these genetic components lead to CF others cause fertility issues like low sperm count, development, and function problems with the reproductive anatomy in males.
Genetic Concerns? Reach Out to Our Office
If you experience infertility or have a known genetic condition, we can help. Please contact LA IVF today for a consultation.