If you are trying to get pregnant, you may be wondering if your genes play a role in your fertility. If your mother had trouble conceiving, does that mean you will too? Your fertility is dependent on a number of factors, including your genetics and family history. Some conditions such as PCOS can make it harder for you to become pregnant, and having a family history of reproductive health conditions can negatively impact your fertility. Fortunately, genetics alone does not determine your fertility. You can take action to ensure you are in the best health for reproduction and increase your chances of getting pregnant. This includes eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough physical exercise and taking quality fertility supplements. Discover which genetic factors play a role in your fertility and learn how to manage these conditions to improve your ability to get pregnant.
Many couples have trouble conceiving a baby. Research estimates that 7% of all couples experience infertility during their reproductive years. Many more experienced fertility struggles, even though they may not qualify for an infertility diagnosis. Infertility is the inability to conceive when you have been trying with regular, unprotected intercourse for at least 12 months. There are two types of infertility: primary and secondary. Primary infertility is when couples have not conceived a child, even after trying for a year while not using birth control. Secondary infertility occurs when a couple cannot conceive after previously conceiving and birthing a child. Infertility problems can occur in women, men or both partners. Infertility in women occurs when:
- Your ovaries cannot produce viable eggs
- Your eggs have problems moving from your ovaries into your uterus.
- The fertilized egg does not attach to the uterus lining.
- Your fertilized egg does not survive after attaching to your uterine lining.
Male infertility can be caused by a low sperm count, defects in sperm that prevent conception or a blockage that prevents the release of the sperm. Hormone imbalances, certain medications, and some health conditions can impact male and female fertility. Your genetics also contribute to your fertility.
When Family History Plays a Role
While your genes do not solely determine your fertility, they can impact your ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term. Both women and men can experience genetic fertility issues.
● Disorders affecting women’s reproductive organs
Conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis and fibroids tend to run in families and may increase your risk of developing infertility problems. PCOS causes hormonal imbalances and irregular periods, impacting your ability to ovulate regularly and conceive. It’s estimated that PCOS affects up to 13% of women during their reproductive years and contributes to infertility.
Endometriosis and uterine fibroids also impact fertility. These conditions cause abnormal tissue growth in and around women’s reproductive organs. They can impact your fallopian tubes and uterine lining, making it harder for an egg to move through your reproductive tract or implant in the uterus once fertilized. While none of these health problems are caused by specific genes, they tend to be hereditary. Women are twice as likely to develop endometriosis if their mothers, grandmothers or sisters have experienced the same condition.
● Fragile X syndrome
You may have mutations in your FMR1 gene if you have a family history of fragile X syndrome. This genetic mutation causes women to have low ovarian reserve, hormonal imbalances and an earlier onset of menopause. It can also lead to premature ovarian failure, impacting your ability to conceive.
● Primary ovarian insufficiency
Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is a common cause of infertility that occurs when your ovaries stop working correctly before the age of 40. Women with POI may experience irregular periods and reduced fertility earlier than their peers. Like other reproductive health problems, women are more likely to suffer from POI if they have a family history of the condition.
● Genetic disorders in men
Men may experience fertility problems caused by Y-chromosome abnormalities. They affect a man’s sperm count and the cellular health of their sperm. These genetic disorders are passed down from father to son. If their father had infertility problems, his son is at greater risk of experiencing them too.
Non-Genetic Fertility Factors
Your age, overall health and underlying health conditions are important non-genetic factors that contribute to your fertility. Women’s fertility levels start dropping by age 35 and getting pregnant after 40 becomes more difficult. You may have more trouble conceiving and face an increased risk of miscarriage.
Women over 35 can take specially formulated preconception vitamins to help prepare their body for conception. They contain DHEA (a steroid hormone crucial for creating other reproductive hormones), along with the vitamins and minerals typically found in prenatal vitamins to support your ovarian health, prepare your body for pregnancy and help the development of your baby. Your overall health also affects your fertility. Being overweight, eating a diet lacking proper nutrition and stress all negatively impact your fertility. It’s important to maintain a healthy fertility diet and get regular physical activity while you are trying to conceive. Regular exercise can also help you reduce your stress levels.
How to Improve Your Reproductive Health
There are multiple ways to improve your reproductive health and increase your odds of conceiving, even if you have genetic factors affecting your fertility. Talk with your doctor about your pregnancy plans if you have a family history – or you already know you have a genetic disorder or health condition. You may need to see a fertility specialist or use IVF to help you get pregnant. You can also use at-home ovulation tests to track if and when you are ovulating. There are science-based ovulation apps to help you track your cycles accurately. If you are not ready to get pregnant but are worried about your age, you may want to learn more about the latest egg freezing technology to help you maintain your ability to have a child in the future.
If you are currently trying to conceive, consider taking supplements. Women can improve their ovarian and egg health by taking DHEA supplements when they are trying to conceive. There are also reproductive supplements for men. A CoQ10/ubiquinol supplement helps improve the cellular health and motility of their sperm. These supplements can improve your chances of getting pregnant.