Can your family history affect your fertility? Perhaps you’re wondering whether your parents’ or grandparents experiences could have an effect if you’re trying for a baby. Fertility can be affected by lots of different factors, so what part can genetics play?

 

There isn’t an infertility gene

The first thing to remember is: there’s no infertility gene, so just because your mother had difficulty conceiving, it doesn’t follow that you will too. It’s true though that certain conditions can be inherited and these can contribute to infertility. Let’s take a look at where your family history might be relevant.

Endometriosis
One of the most common causes of infertility, it’s true that endometriosis can be hereditary. With endometriosis, the tissue normally found in the lining of the womb develop elsewhere in the body, including the ovaries and fallopian tubes. As the tissues thicken and break down each month, pain, swelling and scarring may result. Endometriosis is one of the few conditions linked to infertility that can be passed down – you can find out more about the condition here.

Problems with ovulation

This is a greyer area, as problems with ovulation can be inherited – but this isn’t always the case. For example, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can sometimes be hereditary, but problems caused by diet or lifestyle that can also have an effect on ovulation aren’t genetic in any way.

Male infertility

It’s believed that male fertility isn’t inherited and that lifestyle and environment are much more important to take into consideration. However, research is being done in the area of poor quality semen, which is the most common cause of infertility in men.

A Danish study showed that young men whose parents had taken longer than a year to conceive had lower sperm counts and fewer normal-looking sperm, but this was based on research with a small number of people. And in France, a study of a similar size of around 300 men pointed to the possibility of a faulty gene contributing to low sperm counts.

So there may – or may not – be a link between poor sperm quality and genetics, it’s too early to say.

Many conditions aren’t inherited

Most conditions that cause infertility factors aren’t passed on. Factors such as poor egg quality or low egg reserves and blocked or damaged fallopian tubes can happen to anyone, regardless of family history.

 

It’s only natural to wonder whether fertility issues are genetic and have been passed on from your parents (and also to think about whether you could pass on a condition to your own children in the future). But any fertility issues amongst previous generations of your family aren’t going to decide your own fertility in most cases. While there are a few conditions that can be passed down which may affect your ability to conceive, try not to worry too much about your parents’ medical history – after all, they managed to have you!

If you’re currently trying to get pregnant and are finding it tricky to work out the best time to conceive, our ovulation calculator can help you to make a note of your most fertile days.

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Andrew Drakeley

Mr Andrew Drakeley is the Clinical Director at the Hewitt Fertility Centre, working principally at the Liverpool Women’s site but with managerial responsibility for Knutsford.

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