Understanding genetics role in fertility issues

dna-fertility

Are you thinking about starting a family? There’s so much to consider: car seats, pediatricians, cloth or disposable diapers. The list goes on.

Here’s one more thing to add to the list: Any genetic issues that may run in the family.

“Genetic testing looks for mutation present on the genes of the male and the female, such as sickle cell anemia or cystic fibrosis. If both parents are carriers, there is a 25 percent higher chance that the baby will have one of those conditions,” explained Brad Miller, M.D., a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at Beaumont.

He continued, “You can be tested for more than 100 diseases. Some are rare, others aren’t. People with mostly European ancestry tend to have higher incidences of cystic fibrosis, there’s also a whole testing panel just for Jewish people and African-Americans have a higher likelihood of carrying the sickle cell gene.”

If a couple does genetic testing and finds similar markers or mutations, they can work with a specialist to help ensure a healthy baby. “Traditionally, we have a couple do in-vitro fertilization, then we test the embryos for genetic abnormalities using preimplantation genetic diagnosis. This happens most often when parents already have one child born with the disease,” said Dr. Miller.

One thing you don’t have to worry about: Genetics has very little impact on your ability to become pregnant or stay pregnant, according to Dr. Miller. You can get tested for certain genetic markers that relate to infertility conditions, but these markers and are not genetic diseases.

One thing you don’t have to worry about: Genetics has very little impact on your ability to become pregnant or stay pregnant, according to Dr. Miller. You can get tested for certain genetic markers that relate to infertility conditions, but these markers and are not genetic diseases.

If you’re already pregnant, you’ll likely start hearing more about genetics at the beginning of your pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends offering genetic testing to all moms-to-be.

“If you’re going to start a family, it’s important to know your personal medical and family history,” said Samuel Bauer, M.D., Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist at Beaumont. “Early in the pregnancy, we offer screening for different types of chromosomal abnormalities. We assess the nuchal translucency, which is the area behind the baby’s neck, and blood work to assess the risk of Down syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities.”

However, the results of any genetic screening - for you, your partner or your baby -shouldn’t generally affect your pregnancy. “It’s a matter of providing options and learning the risk - if any. And for giving the patient as much information as she wants,” said Dr. Bauer.

Knowing your genetic background gives couples a leg up to prepare for life as parents. “Getting pregnant has little to do with genetics. It really has a lot to do with having a healthy baby. Some choose to have genetic testing before becoming pregnant, while others prefer to take their chances. We call it ‘rolling the genetic dice,’” said Dr. Miller.