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Determining How Genetics Affects Your Fertility

Genetics is of interest for many reasons. When you plan your future family, you wonder what traits your children may take from you, your partner and your other relatives. Will your daughter have your grandmother’s curly hair? Is your son doomed to inherit Uncle Charlie’s nose? Of course, it’s all in good fun, and your future child will be beautiful and much loved no matter what.

But when it comes to genetics and potential chromosome disorders, any future pregnancies and your fertility could be in jeopardy. It’s necessary to understand the role genetics and heredity plays in fertility and fetal development for determining the best path to a healthy and successful pregnancy.

There are certain genetic conditions which may affect your fertility. These conditions fall into two categories; chromosomal abnormalities and single gene defects. Here, we take a look at how these genetic issues compromise your fertility.

Just What Are Chromosomes and How Do They Affect Fertility?

Chromosomes which are string-like structures that contain genetic material, make up human cells. Most normal human cells contain 46 chromosomes in 23 pairs. Sperm and eggs each contain 23 singular chromosomes. When they come together to create an embryo, that embryo has 23 pairs – each pair containing one chromosome from each parent.

For each biological parent, there are 22 autosome chromosomes and one chromosome which determines sex. Men have 22 autosome chromosomes and one chromosome with one X and one Y. Women carry 22 chromosomes which are autosomes, and one which is XX.

Examples of chromosome abnormalities which impact fertility and successful pregnancy are trisomy, characterized by an additional chromosome (47 instead of 46) and Turner syndrome (the absence of one X chromosome). There are many other chromosome abnormalities which result in varying degrees of developmental delays, physical abnormalities, miscarriage or stillbirth.

What Are Single Gene Disorders?

A single gene disorder is a defect or disorder caused by a certain gene. Some examples of single gene disorders are cystic fibrosis, Fragile X syndrome, muscular dystrophy, sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs and Huntington’s disease.

Single gene disorders typically indicate a family history of specific abnormalities. Although many of the diseases caused by single gene mutations are rare they are usually pretty devastating to a family. Both Tay-Sachs and cystic fibrosis are fatal disorders. Other diseases related to single gene defects such as thalassemia or sickle cell anemia may mean a lifetime of managing the disease through painful treatment and medication that limit activity.

Certainly, if you know any of the single gene disorders are present in your family or your partner’s family you must undergo genetic counseling and testing. Even if you don’t have the genetic disorder yourself, you may carry the gene responsible for that disorder.

Should You Consider Genetic Counseling?

In general, genetic abnormalities caused by chromosome issues usually happen as the result of a random event in the development of the sperm, egg or embryo. Couples who experience infertility may be at greater risk for having a baby with certain abnormalities. When the cause of infertility is advanced reproductive age, for example, the egg quality and viability diminish as a rule. As mentioned, men experiencing low sperm count or sperm deformities could carry a gene mutation.

Genetic counseling is a wise course to take for anyone experiencing infertility. There are certain genetic disorders related to conditions which compromise fertility in both men and women. For women with recurrent pregnancy loss, a possible cause is chromosomal disorders, which merit further investigation. Men who have a low sperm count may carry certain gene mutations and should absolutely consider genetic testing when diagnosed with infertility related to sperm count or viability.

Advanced Reproductive Technology and Your Genetic Issues

The good news? Advanced reproductive technology offers many ways to move forward, even when your odds are high for genetic abnormalities. IVF with PGT (pre-implantation genetic testing) improves your opportunity for pregnancy with a healthy embryo. Third party reproduction such as gestational surrogacy, donor sperm or donor eggs arrangements also provide options for those parents dealing with genetic roadblocks to a healthy pregnancy outcome.

For more on how you can determine your odds of a genetic issue and how to address the possibility of chromosomal abnormalities contact LA IVF. We offer genetic counseling, screening, PGT and other solutions to help you realize your goal for growing your family.