Infertility - From Father To Son

Excessive exercise; stress; use of drugs like marijuana, cocaine, smoking, alcohol and steroids; obesity, environmental hazards and toxins like pesticides, lead, radiation, mercury etc.; high heat; frequent bike riding; frequent hot baths are few from the list that can result to infertility in men.

Infertility - From Father To Son

Excessive exercise; stress; use of drugs like marijuana, cocaine, smoking, alcohol and steroids; obesity, environmental hazards and toxins like pesticides, lead, radiation, mercury etc.; high heat; frequent bike riding; frequent hot baths are few from the list that can result to infertility in men.

Being parents, we all speculate what best of ourselves we will pass on to our children. We imagine our child having same color of eyes as we have. We also think about the shape of their nose, chin etc. There are some other traits too, such as infertility, for which we never speculate.

Yes, it is a harsh truth that infertility can apparently be passed from father to son. A theory reports that a precise cause of male infertility i.e. a genetic deletion on Y chromosome, can be passed from father to son.

This genetic disorder can be transferred when the baby is conceived by a reproduction technique termed as “Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection” (ICSI).

Infertility in men are mainly because they have partially or no completely developed sperm in their semen. In several cases, the molecular reason of this defect is not known. But the common reason behind this disorder is a deletion in the part of Y chromosome (AZFs).

ICSI technique now provides a chance to such men to have their own child. This technique involves the extraction of spermatozoa either from semen or testis. Later, each sperm is injected into an individual egg that is implanted in the fallopian tube.

Main reasons of Male Infertility that can later be passed from father to son

There are numerous reasons for infertility in men. It can be due to physical problem that block the sperm from getting ejaculated normally in semen.

  • Genital infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia etc. or any sexually transmitted disease can result to infertility. In such cases, infertility can easily be solved by proper treatment of infection.
  • The disorder like retrograde ejaculation can also result to infertility where semen does not come out during ejaculation and it enters the bladder. The reason behind this disorder is diabetes, using certain type of medicines, surgery of bladder or prostrate etc.
  • Physical harm to the testicles and prostate can also result in infertility problems. Surgery is recommended to correct the problem.
  • A rare genetic disease i.e. cystic fibrosis (chromosomal disorder) can also result to infertility in men.
  • Several hormonal problems, mainly in pituitary gland and thyroid gland, can too cause infertility. With proper treatment and medications, this issue can be resolved.
  • Many a times, our immune system by-mistake treat the sperm cells as a foreign virus and finally damage them completely. This problem is termed as “autoimmune problems”.
  • Erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation can also effect on fertility. The reasons for erectile dysfunction can be caused because of some psychological problems like guilt, anxiety, low self-esteem etc. Some physical problems too can lead to infertility like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol etc. Doctor’s consultation may help in treating any sexual problems.

  • Varicocele is an enlarged varice that develops in the scrotum and prevents blood from flowing properly. Varicoceles are found in 15% of men and up to 40% of men evaluated for infertility. Although they may be a factor in male infertility, recent studies have questioned whether surgery to repair varicoceles has a beneficial effect.

Excessive exercise; stress; use of drugs like marijuana, cocaine, smoking, alcohol and steroids; obesity, environmental hazards and toxins like pesticides, lead, radiation, mercury etc.; high heat; frequent bike riding; frequent hot baths are few more from the list that can result to infertility in men.

Getting conceived with Infertility

Male, diagnosed with infertility, without getting late should consult to doctor which might increase your chances of conceiving. Infertile men can also ask doctor about taking some vitamins. Recent studies have concluded that low sperm counts in men can be improved by taking folic acid and zinc.

Your doctor can recommend hormone treatment if he detects any abnormality in hormone levels.

In some common cases where man is found having mild infertility issue, artificial insemination or some reproduction techniques like IVF, ZIFT or GIFT, are suggested by medical professionals. One laboratory procedure for male infertility and low sperm count suggested by medical doctor is ICSI (already discussed above). In simple words, here, the sperm and eggs are retrieved from both the partners and single sperm is injected into an egg. This fertilized egg is then inserted into women’s uterus.

Infertility can be passed from father to son

According to several researchers, the technique used by infertile father may lead to son inheriting their infertility. Tests performed on men who were born through ICSI due to the infertility of their father concluded that they too suffered from infertility or low sperm counts.

Some studies after several tests, claim that parents suffered infertility due to some unknown reasons too. Further it mentioned that men born from ICSI technique were almost three times more prone to have sperm concentrations less than 15 million per milliliter of semen. This is a normal prescribed definition of WHO. Through this study, it is claimed that only a genetic factor that caused infertility in father might be inherited by their son.

Genetically it is proved that female child born from such parent should be spared from infertility defect because they inherit two X chromosomes that too one from each parent. Male child, on the other hand, inherit the deletion in the part of Y chromosome that caused the infertility defect in them.

Before carrying out the ICSI technique, it is a normal practice of informing the prospective parents that through this technique, their sons may too have impaired sperms and semen like their fathers. This information is not given men to stop thinking about going for ICSI treatment. And as expected, most of the doctors get the answers from such parents that if this problem arises in their male child, ICSI or any other technique can be there as a solution for our son too.

But, according to a renowned professor, even though the sons had lower sperm counts and less motile sperm, this result did not match those of their fathers. Hence, it is true that genetic factors play a great role in male infertility but there are several other factors too that may also lead to infertility.

Moreover, men conceived through ICSI had lower sperm concentration i.e. 17.7 million/ml and lower sperm count i.e. 31.9 million as compared to men conceived naturally i.e. 37 million/ml and 86.8 million respectively. Still, based on various studies, I will stick to the fact - it is not compulsory that ICSI conceived males will always have the poor fertility seen by their fathers.

It cannot be ignored that some reasons of infertility may be transferred to child born by fertility treatments. The men with low sperm count can still become father without treatment and if it is not possible normally, then they can opt for using IVF or ICSI techniques.

Since 1990, ICSI is helping males who have problem in conceiving naturally, and till now it is a most successful way of treatment in UK and other parts of the world. To figure out the issue of infertility passed from father to son, a team of researchers in Belgium analyzed the sperm samples of 54 men who were conceived from ICSI techniques and 57 men who were conceived naturally.

They also concluded that ICSI men were three times more prone to have lower sperm concentrations i.e. below 15 million/millilitre. It is not suggested that IVF procedure is causing fertility issues, rather it is only indicating that men born through these techniques are having risk of low sperm concentrations.

Last year, Danish researchers reported that male sex hormone testosterone levels were lower in male infants produced through ICSI than in those who were naturally conceived. However, until more boys are grown, they cannot ascertain whether it will apply to older children or what other problems may occur.

According to an estimate in the journal Nature Genetics, if even half of the affected men used ICSI to have children, the incidence of severe male infertility could double across the country within seven generations.

Van Steirteghem, a well-known professor, admits that they have so far only found a link but deep research is required to find a strong genetic evidence of male infertility being passed from father to son. Till now, finding supports that infertility of a father could be passed onto his son, but does not prove it.

Page's group found three men who were not related to the elimination of AZFs who had four sons among them. Examination of baby DNA reveals that they all inherit the removal of the Y chromosome. This implies that, when these children grow up, they will have exactly the same infertility problems as their father. Unfortunately, researchers will only be able to confirm this inheritance when these babies reach puberty i.e. we need many years from now.

According to the Page team, observations "provide a concrete foundation for reminding couples about the possibility of transmission of Y deletions that cause infertility by ICSI technique." But more generally, even for couples who do not know the exact cause of their infertility, these findings raise important questions about the possibility of transmitting infertility to offspring.

But, to conclude, it is remarkable that at least one’s boy father born after using ICSI said he was not worried, even though he had transmitted a genetic problem for infertility, as there are more and more treatments available today and even in later years to cope with it. Basically, it will be like an issue of eyeglasses now. In earlier ages, if you had bad eyesight, it was taken as a serious problem. Now, it is just not that much issue anymore.

However, we need to find the ways through which infertile men are able to conceive naturally. This will end up all the risks or doubt on transferring infertility from father to son. Just having low semen parameters is not evidence for the requirement of ICSI or IVF technologies.

Allie Leon, Chief Fun Officer

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