Are Fertility Issues Genetic?

ben bunting BA(Hons) PgCert Sport & Exercise Nutriton  Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert.

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The question here may sound a bit odd, as passing on infertility to your children doesn’t really sound possible.

But it’s important to note that being infertile doesn’t mean you can never have children, as it is completely different from being sterile, although it’s often mistaken for this.

In fact, many couples that are diagnosed as being infertile end up being able to have children with medical assistance.

The issues that cause fertility, however, are varied along with the means by which to remedy those problems.

This article aims to shine a light on what makes people infertile, as well as the potential remedies of infertility, and of course, whether or not these issues could be congenital.

  • What Is Infertility?
  • What Are Genetic Diseases?
  • Are Genetic Disorders Avoidable?
  • Can You Cure Genetic Diseases?
  • How Can You Tell If You Have A Genetic Problem?
  • Which Genetic Disorders Affect Fertility?
  • How Is Infertility Treated?
  • What Alternatives Are There To Treat Infertility?
  • Conclusion

What Is Infertility?

are fertility issues genetic

In short, infertility is where a couple cannot conceive a child through traditional means. If a couple is having regular, unprotected sexual intercourse for a prolonged period of time, and haven’t become pregnant, it’s important to visit a doctor to see if they are to be diagnosed as infertile.

There are multiple things that can dictate whether a couple is infertile or not, but, in most scenarios, infertility can be attributed to either partner fairly evenly. It’s said by experts that there’s a 30% chance that the female reproductive system is responsible, 30% for the male, a 30% chance that it’s a combination of both partners, and a 10% leeway of the cause being unknown. [1]

What Are Genetic Diseases?

These are illnesses or physical disorders that are in some way written into our DNA coming from our parents when we are conceived or can appear from mutations in our DNA without being inherited. [2]

The DNA from an inherited disease may be directly from our parents, or in some cases, it could be dormant from their parents and so on. However, that dormant DNA can become active and present itself in a child when their parents never showed any signs of it.

Some examples of common genetic disorders are Thalassemia, Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, Down Syndrome, and Tay-Sachs disease.

The first three of these are commonly inherited diseases and come from the parents. Down Syndrome is actually caused by a sort of error in the developmental process where an extra chromosome is created by accident. [3]

Are Genetic Disorders Avoidable?

Technically, it is possible to avoid passing on certain genetic disorders. Sadly, the most obvious way in which someone can do this is to not reproduce.

However, there are some diseases that aren’t guaranteed to be passed on, and so it can come down to luck in some cases. [4] There are also some screening processes that can detect certain genetic disorders in utero, although the ethics behind doing this is questionable.

Ultimately, there aren’t any easy answers here, but it’s important to consult your doctor if this is something that concerns you.

Can You Cure Genetic Diseases?

Most genetic disorders and illnesses are a result of mutations at the cellular level and are written within our genetic code.

Unfortunately, this means that most, if not all, of them, are incurable. Due to the constant advances to modern medicine, however, there are a lot of different medications and treatments available to help sufferers of these illnesses to cope and in some cases, live fairly normal lives.

There are some diseases that have even been treated with a method known as gene therapy, an experimental practice that essentially rewrites genes to cure, prevent, or alleviate symptoms of the disease. [5]

How Can You Tell If You Have A Genetic Problem?

The chances are, you’ll be able to suspect this if there is a history of a certain genetic disease in your family.

However, sometimes this information goes under the radar and, if left unchecked, these disorders and illnesses can catch you off-guard. It’s therefore very important to speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about this.

If possible, discuss any potential illnesses that run in the family so that you can be tested for them and receive preventative treatment.

However, prenatal diagnostic testing is available which can detect changes in the fetus of an unborn child, generally this procedure is offered to couples who may have a hereditary background of genetic problems. [6]

Which Genetic Disorders Can Affect Fertility?

What is known as a single gene defect, including cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy, Canavan disease, sickle cell and many others, can commonly cause fertility problems. [7] Diseases that affect chromosomes, including both Down syndrome and Klinefelter syndrome, can also be a problem when trying to conceive children.

Men, in particular, suffer with fertility problems if they have these particular diseases, and this is due to low sperm counts. [8] In some cases, the production of sperm can be entirely non-existent, and this can also happen with cystic fibrosis genetic mutations.

How Is Infertility Treated?

are fertility issues genetic

When it comes to helping people to overcome issues with infertility, there are 3 primary treatment methods that will be approached by doctors.

This includes medication, assisted medical conception, and sometimes surgery. The most common medicine that you’ll find for female infertility is clomiphene which assists in stimulating ovulation or egg production.

Assisted conception, such as IVF treatments, are also a great option if couples are experiencing difficulties in conception. The egg is fertilized outside of the body in a lab using the partner’s or a donor’s sperm and is reintroduced into the womb.

IVF is probably the most common course of action for couples struggling with infertility problems, however, even IVF is not without risk, nor is it that successful especially if you are over the age of 40 where there’s just a 5% chance of conceiving. [9]

What Alternatives Are There To Treat Infertility?

There is no guaranteed alternative way to combat infertility. However, there are ways in which some people suggest fertility can be improved.

Poor nutrition, diet, and lifestyle are sometimes attributed to infertility, and many turn their attention to fertility supplements like the ones we offer at Fertiligy

While these supplements are designed to be safe, it’s always wise to consult your doctor before trying any alternative treatment.

However, our science-led, natural formula is a great way to enhance fertility in men in a way that is backed by research, natural, legal, and hormone-free.

Conclusion

In conclusion, yes there are genetic issues surrounding infertility, but not all. Some conditions are now treatable, others are diagnosed in the pre-natal stage. 

However, before you do get to hung up on trying to self diagnose infertility without knowing of any hereditary history, ensure that the more obvious, and the manageable factors are checked and accounted for. 

Take stock of your current lifestyle; your dietary intake, your exercise levels and even your stress. Make adjustments to solve any fertility problems you may have if required and even consult a medical specialist to ascertain the full picture. 

fertiligy male fertility

References:

[1] Vander Borght, M. and Wyns, C. (2018). Fertility and infertility: Definition and epidemiology. Clinical Biochemistry, 62, pp.2–10. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29555319/

[2] Administrator, S. (2016). Genetic disorders | Genetic Alliance UK. [online] geneticalliance.org.uk. Available at: https://geneticalliance.org.uk/information/learn-about-genetics/genetic-disorders [Accessed 20 Sep. 2021].

‌[3] NHS Choices (2019). Overview - Down’s syndrome. [online] NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/downs-syndrome/.

‌[4] www.healthywa.wa.gov.au. (n.d.). Genetic conditions. [online] Available at: https://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/F_I/Genetic-conditions.

[5] Gene therapy: The ultimate cure for hereditary diseases. (2019). EBioMedicine, [online] 47, p.1. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6796784/.

‌[6] Genetic Alliance and District of Columbia Department of Health (2010). Diagnosis of a Genetic Disease. [online] Nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK132142/.

[7] ‌Jedidi, I., Ouchari, M. and Yin, Q. (2018). Autosomal single-gene disorders involved in human infertility. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences, 25(5), pp.881–887. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30108436/

[‌8]‌‌ Kamiński, P., Baszyński, J., Jerzak, I., Kavanagh, B.P., Nowacka-Chiari, E., Polanin, M., Szymański, M., Woźniak, A. and Kozera, W. (2020). External and Genetic Conditions Determining Male Infertility. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, [online] 21(15). Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32722328/ [Accessed 20 Sep. 2021].

‌[9] www.hfea.gov.uk. (n.d.). Fertility treatment 2019: trends and figures | Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. [online] Available at: https://www.hfea.gov.uk/about-us/publications/research-and-data/fertility-treatment-2019-trends-and-figures/#Section1.