Understanding the Connection Between Steroid Use and Fertility in Men
Male infertility can be a very sensitive and difficult issue for many men to accept. It can come as a big surprise that they may be creating the problem by taking certain supplements – especially (anabolic) steroids. Steroids that are used to enhance strength and fitness can actually drastically lower a sperm count (to zero in many cases).
Increasing Testosterone Levels can Lower Sperm Count
Steroids that are taken to promote muscle growth and overall fitness can actually trick the brain into thinking that there is a sufficient amount of testosterone being produced. As a result, the brain decreases its signaling to the testicles. Steroid use can actually lead to low (or absent) sperm counts and shrunken testicles. In a sense, steroids can act like male birth control.
The good news is that this is often a very treatable and recoverable form of male infertility. Once the steroid use has stopped, it generally takes about three months for sperm to return in the semen. For men who have used steroids for a long time, recovery may take longer – even sometimes a year or more.
In addition to male infertility issues, steroids can cause a number of other health issues, some of which may be irreversible:
- Breast development
- Liver problems
- Heart attack
If you are taking steroids to improve your strength and muscle mass, it is critical for you to be aware of the connection between steroid use and male infertility, and risks you are taking that impact both short- and long-term heath.
When Is Testosterone Use Appropriate?
Occasionally men may be prescribed testosterone by a physician to boost an overall lower than normal testosterone level. This would be an appropriate use of testosterone. However, testosterone is a steroid hormone – and will cause the sperm count to plummet.
If a man has baseline low testosterone and also desires fertility, there are other alternative medications that can help maintain normal testosterone levels AND a normal sperm count.
Contact Texas Fertility Center to make a plan for addressing hormonal imbalances while boosting fertility.
TFC Video: Male Infertility
How Do You Treat Male Infertility? Dr. Kaylen Silverberg discusses the best treatment options when facing male infertility.
Watch more TFC videos in our education center
TFC Ovation Research : Male Infertility
Chizhong Wang*, Ji-won Choi*, Leonardo F. Urbanoy†, Puneet Massonz‡, Matthew VerMilyea§, and Moshe Kam*; Tracking of Human Sperm in Time-Lapse Images. *Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ, USA, †70 Beharrel St., Concord, MA, USA, ‡Penn Fertility Care, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA, §Ovation Fertility, Austin, TX, USA.