Infertility Tests: Genetic Testing

When it comes to infertility tests, one common type is genetic testing. This testing is of a woman’s eggs as well as her genetic makeup. In either one of these areas, genetic disorders could be preventing her from becoming pregnant, causing the fertility problem.

Genetically Testing the Woman

A fertility specialist will want to test the woman’s DNA to see if she has any genetic disorders that prevent her from becoming pregnant. To eliminate genetic disorders as a potential cause of infertility, most doctors will order genetic tests to be performed relatively early in the patient’s treatment. Genetic disorders can cause a woman to not be able to carry a baby or even prevent her from developing or releasing eggs. This type of testing is performed by an analysis of the woman’s blood. Therefore, all the woman needs to do is give a blood sample and wait for the results.

Genetically Testing the Egg

Each egg contains one-half of the DNA required to create an embryo. Genetic testing will be performed on the egg to determine:

  • whether the egg contains DNA
  • whether the DNA is properly formed
  • whether the DNA contains any impediments to the woman’s fertility

If problems are discovered with the egg, other eggs may be tested to determine whether the problem is universal or limited only to that egg. If the problem is universal, the woman may be unable to become pregnant with her own eggs.

Because eggs are housed inside ovaries, the doctor must gather them for their testing. This is often done through a surgical procedure in which the doctor removes eggs directly from the ovary using a needle-shaped collecting device. Prior to their collection, the patient may be required to ingest hormones to increase her body’s egg production and ensure that there will be eggs to collect and to compare during the genetic testing.

The Aftermath of Genetic Testing

If the genetic tests of either or both the woman or the egg reveals problems, the physician may then begin a course of treatment. However, there are very few treatment options for genetic problems because DNA can rarely be forced to change its formation or production. Many times, genetic problems that cause infertility are irreversible.

If, however, the genetic tests showed no problems, the doctor will turn to other tests to determine if there is another cause of the patient’s infertility. These tests may include genetic tests for the woman’s partner and his sperm.

Genetic Disorders and Couples

Sometimes, even if the woman does not have any genetic disorders, when coupled with her spouse or the sperm donor, genetic problems may arise. Therefore, even though there's not a problem with the woman’s DNA, that does not necessarily mean that genetic problems can be excluded as the cause of infertility. Because of this, usually the genetic makeup of the male and his sperm are also tested to determine whether there are any abnormalities. Sometimes, both parties have healthy genes when separate, but together they are unhealthy and cannot develop into an embryo.

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