Q: If I know that my mother or sister were infertile or had trouble getting pregnant, does that mean I will be infertile too?

A: According to Dr. Piraye Yurttas Beim, the answer depends in part on the cause of infertility. For example, if your mother or sister suffers from infertility due to primary ovarian insufficiency (loss of ovarian function before age 40) of unknown cause, the probability of you getting the same condition is 31%, which is much higher than overall probability in women of reproductive age (1%). Similarly, for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), another common cause of infertility, research has shown that 35% of mothers and 40% of sisters of women with PCOS are affected by this condition.

That said, keep in mind that women can have trouble getting pregnant due to a wide variety of factors, including male infertility. In such cases, family history of what your mom or sister has experienced is less relevant to you.

If you know you have family members who have experienced infertility, talk to your doctor. Thankfully, women today have access to more information about their fertility than ever before.


POI (PMID: 9740426): Vegetti, W., et al., Inheritance in idiopathic
premature ovarian failure: analysis of 71 cases. Hum Reprod, 1998.
13(7): p. 1796-800.

PCOS (PMID 11117675): Azziz, R. and M.D. Kashar-Miller, Family history
as a risk factor for the polycystic ovary syndrome. J Pediatr
Endocrinol Metab, 2000. 13 Suppl 5: p. 1303-6

Dr. Piraye Yurttas Beim is the CEO and founder of Celmatix

For more information on this topic, listen to the Creating a Family radio show: Infertility & Genetics .

Image credit: Tanya Littleberry