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How Your Mother's Reproductive History Can Affect Your Own Fertility

November 28, 2017
Katie Visco

Before consulting with a fertility doctor for the first time, most women expect questions like the following: Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you exercise? How healthy of an eater are you? However, a topic all women should expect to come up in these meetings is their family's medical history, particularly their own mother's background regarding her fertility. 

This is because it turns out that maternal age of menopause can be rather predictive of whether one might experience early menopause oneself. So if a doctor asks when your mother went into menopause, don't be alarmed. It's standard procedure. The average age of menopause is about 51, so if someone's mom went into menopause in her early 40s, studies show that does pose a risk for that person to go into menopause earlier than usual. 

Furthermore, certain reproductive issues such as endometriosis can also be hereditary. Whenever a woman has classic endo symptoms (such as painful intercourse, painful periods or ultrasounds that show endometriomas), doctors traditionally will ask whether their mother or sister(s) struggled with endometriosis as well. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is another possible hereditary disease, but the genetic relationship isn't quite as clear-cut. Because irregular cycles and excessive hair growth are the most common sign of this condition, and if one's mother struggled with PCOS, it is possible the woman's daughter will have a disposition to it. 

Although knowing your mother's medical history may not help with prevention of such conditions, it can provide crucial answers when dealing with unexplained infertility. 

Knowing your family's history can help women in the early stages of trying to conceive prepare for the hurdles that may be in their future. So, when talking with your mother, be sure to ask her these questions: When did you start trying? How long did it take to become pregnant? When did you go into menopause? Did you have regular cycles? And after asking those questions, take all her answers and bring them to your OB-GYN or RE. By doing so, hopefully you'll be one step ahead on not missing your window of reproduction.

Also, thanks to a new test, women may also be able to get an even deeper window into their reproductive potential as it pertains to genetics. Via a simple blood test, Fertilome tests screen for genetic markers that are associated with common reproductive conditions (such as diminished ovarian reserve, PCOS, recurrent pregnancy loss, and others). 

While some women may uncover potential issues when navigating one's family medical history, it is important to keep in mind that a lot has changed in the field of reproduction since mothers of the generation before ours were trying to conceive. Although maternal medical history can provide a lot of helpful information, you are not tied to your mother's fertility past--good or bad. Nowadays, there is technology to help people conceive and get pregnant.

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