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Rachel Gurevich

Passing On Infertility To The Next Generation

By September 22, 2008

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A recent article on MSNBC.com brought up a controversial topic on male fertility and infertility treatments – what if the fertility treatments we use today create a new generation of infertile adults?

In the article, Pass it On: Sons of Infertile May Be Next, scientists and researchers are quoted saying that certain fertility treatments, in particular ICSI treatment used during IVF, may increase the risk of a father passing on his infertility to his son.

In the treatment ICSI, men who normally could not fertilize an egg because of low sperm count, or malformed sperm, are given a chance at fatherhood. The procedure ICSI (pronounced ick-see) involves taking a single sperm and injecting it into an egg by using a small, specialized needle. The fertilized egg is then placed into the woman’s womb during an embryo transfer, as part of an IVF treatment cycle.

The article mentions that couples should be educated about the risk, and be encouraged to consider the use of a sperm donor, if they’d rather not take a chance of passing on the infertility.

For now, the question or whether or not men could pass on their infertility to their sons by using fertility treatments is questionable. ICSI treatment was only invented in the 1990s, and the children that were born using this treatment for male infertility aren’t old enough to see if infertility will be passed on, or not.

Of course, I think couples should be told that the risk may be there. But personally, I don’t see what the big deal is about passing on the infertility. If the child will be otherwise healthy and normal, and we now have the treatments available to help them father children when they grow up, why not do the treatment?

The article refers to a “science fiction” like generation of men who can’t father their children. But how is this different than any number of other medical problems that once killed millions of people, but are now treatable with medications?

Take diabetes, or asthma, as examples. At one time, a severely asthmatic child would not grow up to have kids. A child with juvenile diabetes would not grow up to have children, either. But now, because we have treatments for these diseases, these kids grow up, have kids, and potentially pass on their illnesses to their kids.

For further reading, check out these articles:

What do you think? Should fertility treatments be avoided if they might pass on infertility to the child? Take the poll above and let us know what you think. Also, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, or in the forums.

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