Ask an Expert: Men and miscarriage risk

Q: “Could it be possible for the male to be at fault for miscarriages? I’ve had two pregnant women in my life: The first woman had two miscarriages, and the second had one. Is there something wrong with my sperm?”

Answer from Angela Keating, M.D., board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with Providence Women's Clinic, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center: Although very rare, it is possible for a miscarriage to be indirectly related to the father of the baby.

The most common cause of early miscarriages (approximately 70 percent) is abnormal chromosomes in the fetus. In most cases, the mother and father have normal chromosomes, but random changes occur during cell division that create abnormal chromosomes in the developing baby, resulting in a miscarriage.

In three to eight percent of couples with repetitive miscarriages, there is a chromosomal abnormality in one of the parents. This type of abnormality has no effect on the parent, but during fetal cell division and differentiation, it causes a lethal combination of chromosomes in the fetus, which leads to miscarriage. Karyotyping – a test of your chromosomes – can determine whether you are a carrier of any of these rare abnormalities. This test is expensive, but it is an important part of the testing process when people experience recurrent miscarriages.

You didn’t mention your age, but advanced paternal age also may be associated with a slight increase in the risk of miscarriage. If you are older than the average dad, you might want to read our answer to a previous question about Fatherhood After 50.

The miscarriages you have experienced with the women in your life were probably nobody’s “fault” – and, in fact, that’s a word we’d rather not use, since it implies blame in a situation where no one is to blame. Keep in mind that miscarriages are rarely due to any reproducible cause, so the past shouldn’t inhibit you from trying again to become a parent. 

We recommend meeting with your health care provider or with a fertility specialist to discuss your concerns and to determine whether you should have an evaluation. If your current partner has another miscarriage, we would advise that she get an evaluation, as well.

January 2008

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