Trying to conceive is a lot harder than it seems sometimes. Although the human race continues, it’s surprising how many things have to go right in order to become pregnant. One of the roadblocks to conception is male factor infertility. When your male partner’s sperm count is low, motility is off or there’s something not quite right about his sperm your odds of becoming pregnant are low. In some cases the sperm itself is not the problem. Some men are unable to deliver their sperm into their partner’s uterus which also makes conception extremely difficult.
When you’ve tried to conceive for 12 months consecutively (or six months for women over 35) with no results, it’s time to consult a fertility specialist. After some testing of both you and your partner your physician will have some understanding of the reason behind your difficulties. Half of all couples seeking infertility treatment find male factor infertility has some bearing on their inability to conceive.
Is it Genetic?
Just as with female factor infertility the causes vary-and there are many different reasons. In some cases there may be a genetic connection. Often when a fertility specialist sees a very low concentration of sperm, or no sperm at all, in a man’s semen they recommend genetic testing. This also applies if the man’s testicles are very small or misshapen. Genetic testing is also warranted when there’ve been a series of miscarriages.
Should your physician uncover a genetic connection the next step typically involves further investigation by way of genetic counseling to help you determine whether or not you’ll be successful using your partner’s sperm. Your doctor will also review some alternatives with you and your partner.
Genetic Male Factor Infertility
According to recent studies around 10%-15% of male factor infertility is genetic. Although hormone imbalances, age, lifestyle, weight and diet are more commonly related genetics is a factor. Sometimes it’s the only factor in male infertility. Here are some of the more common genetic reasons behind male factor infertility.
Cystic Fibrosis Gene Mutation: Approximately one in every 32,000 people with Caucasian ethnicity suffers from cystic fibrosis. Researchers recently discovered different forms of the disease which only affect fertility in men. Men who have cystic fibrosis typically do not have a vas deferens which is the tube that carries the sperm from the testicles to the urethra. If the male partner has this condition genetic counseling is necessary. You need to determine whether you and your partner both carry the gene mutation that causes cystic fibrosis as that will pose a significant and serious risk for your future children. If CF is only present in the male, he usually produces normal sperm. Your doctor can overcome the absence of the vas deferens by extracting sperm and using it to fertilize the egg via IVF.
Klinefelter’s syndrome: When a man is born with an extra X chromosome (XXY sex chromosome) he can have Klinefelter’s syndrome. This common genetic fertility issue occurs in about one out of every 500-1,000 men. Klinefelter’s syndrome causes a low sperm count, the absence of sperm in the semen or very low testosterone levels. In some cases men with Klinefelter’s syndrome have health sperm in their testicles. Again, the doctor can extract the sperm and fertilize the egg via IVF.
Y chromosome Infertility: There are some instances when portions of the Y chromosome are missing. These are the chromosomes that relate to fertility and if they are micro deleted (mining portions) that impacts a man’s ability for developing healthy sperm. It’s still possible for the man to produce some healthy sperm in the testicles, depending on the type of micro deletions present. Men who have this condition pass it on to their sons. This occurs whether conception results from using assisted reproductive technology or naturally.
Additional Genetic Problems: In some cases your infertility diagnosis comes back as “unexplained”. Upon further testing the physician may discover something called balanced translocations. This term refers to a rearrangement of chromosomes which possibly causes infertility, multiple miscarriages or birth defects in children. When your doctor diagnoses balanced translocation, he will likely recommend IVF with PGT.
You Have Options
In all of the above cases, depending on the degree of genetic male factor infertility, donor sperm is a viable option. In cases where genetic counseling uncovers a high risk of birth defects is possible, donor sperm is often the best solution to produce a healthy pregnancy with a wonderful outcome.
If you are wondering if your male factor infertility could be genetic contact LA IVF. Our team will find answers and solutions for you and your partner. Don’t put your dream of growing your family on hold. Let’s work together.