What makes one person have trouble conceiving and another as fertile as the day is long is a very complex situation. Age, hormones, body composition, and all kinds of medical issues come into play.
But could something as simple as blood type play a role in infertility? Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine think so. They found that women who had blood type O were more than twice as likely to have high levels of follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH. FSH tells the ovaries to produce eggs (it's what those ovulation pee sticks react to) and rises as a woman's egg reserve dwindles. High levels of it can indicate that fertility may be on the wane.
At first I was all "A-HA!" when I saw the story, because I have type O blood and so does my husband. Could this have been the main reason we had such a hard time conceiving?
Yeah, probably not. Why? I have the most common blood type. According to the Red Cross, 37 percent of all Caucasians (which I am) have O positive type blood, and so do 47 percent of African Americans, 53 percent of Hispanics, and 39 percent of Asians. That couldn't be the magic answer to "why," because there would just be a lot more infertile people around.
And actual infertility specialists seem to agree with me. Other factors likely play a way bigger role ... and if blood type is the big answer, what is anyone going to do about it? It's not like it can be changed.
Medical science has already come up with an answer to another scary blood type problem: Rh incompatibility. Mothers who are Rh negative (which means they don't have a certain protein on their red blood cells and their letter blood type ends with a negative) and conceive a baby with an Rh-positive man can develop sensitization to their baby's blood if the baby inherited being Rh-positive from its father.
The first pregnancy is usually fine, but subsequent "Rh incompatible" pregnancies can mean the mother's body looks at her baby's blood as an invader, and destroys the baby's red blood cells. The baby can end up with anemia, mental retardation, jaundice, or even heart failure. Rh incompatibility used to kill 10,000 babies every year. In 1968, Ortho developed the RhoGam (Rh immune globulin) shot that keeps a mother's blood from being sensitized to an Rh positive baby's blood, and now it's incredibly rare for a baby to die from complications of Rh incompatibility. Rh negative mothers typically get the shot around 28 weeks of pregnancy and within 72 hours after delivery; it's considered safer to just get the shot than to do an amniocentesis to determine the baby's blood type.
So if they could fix that blood type issue, maybe they can fix this one, if it proves to be a bigger problem than anyone thinks right now. As someone who had an explanation for my infertility (PCOS, diagnosed well before I tried to get pregnant), but one that wasn't well understood, I think anything that can make the picture a little clearer or act as a signal for doctors that they should test something they otherwise might not bother with is a good thing.
If you don't know your blood type, here's an easy way to find out that actually benefits the community; donate blood. Yeah yeah, squeamish, whatever: I get dizzy at the sight of blood and have donated tons of times. It's pretty much painless, fairly quick, and you get free cookies after. You'll be sent a donor card with your blood type after your first donation. Or ... just ask your doctor.
Do you know your blood type? Do you think it affected your fertility?
Image via GreenFlames09/Flickr