Fertility and genetics: how your genes matter?
One important factor that women should consider that affects their fertility is their genetics. So the question is how much of your fertility has been inherited? While researchers are still discovering how genes impact fertility, it is known that family history does play a role in certain conditions that impact fertility.
Many women are unable to conceive or carry a successful pregnancy due to chromosomal abnormalities and genetic disorders. It means that it makes it difficult for an embryo to successfully implant or survive in the uterus. This could be due to:
- Chromosomal deletions- where a part of the chromosome is missing, or mutations in the DNA.
- Chromosome translocation- where chromosomal pieces attach to the wrong chromosome.
- Aneuploidy- meaning that there are too few or too many chromosomes.
At times everything is normal yet it could lead to abnormalities due to structural changes in the chromosomes. These abnormalities could occur randomly in chromosomally normal women, however several of these are passed down through generations.
Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition in which the lining of the uterus grows outside the womb. This condition is considered to be multifactorial – it is caused by hereditary, environmental and acquired factors. Women with a close family (first degree relatives) history of endometriosis (like their mother or sister) have a five to seven times higher risk of developing endometriosis, as compared to women who don’t have a family history. However, that does not mean that women with family history will definitely get it.
Fibroids are small, benign tumors that grow inside the uterus and prevent the embryo from attaching to the uterine lining. Similar to endometriosis, women with a family history of fibroids have a higher risk of getting fibroids, however that does not mean they will definitely get it.
Sometimes, there is a genetic control over how many eggs a woman is born with. The speed at which the quantity and quality decreases also may have a hereditary component. If a woman has a close family member who reached menopause early, she has a higher chance of experiencing early menopause.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a condition in which you develop hormonal imbalance that causes cysts in the ovaries and irregular periods. Research shows that PCOS is heavily influenced by genes, although there could be other factors like lifestyle and environmental factors. Women with a family history of PCOS have a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with it. Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between genetics, PCOS and infertility.
The bottom line is that while a lot of lifestyle and health factors impact fertility, certain conditions have shown to have an underlying genetic predisposition that increases the chances of getting it. There is still research going on, but it is advised to seek medical advice in case you have a family history around any of these conditions.