Testosterone Supplements are Risky for Men Trying to Build a Family
“Low T” and its associated symptoms—reduced libido, erectile dysfunction, mood changes/depression, irritability, fatigue, memory loss—is everywhere you turn, if you believe the media. What man wouldn’t want a quick fix for these symptoms, as well as increasing lean body mass and muscle strength? That’s the claim made by the manufacturers of testosterone supplements, most of which are FDA approved and must be prescribed by physicians.
However, if that man is trying to conceive a child, the testosterone supplements may sabotage that process by suppressing sperm production. Several studies have indicated that as many as 75 – 80% of men on testosterone supplements have NO sperm production (azoospermia). Another 20% have reductions in their sperm counts to a level too low for conception. It can take as long as 6 months, after stopping testosterone treatment, for the sperm count to bounce back into a normal (fertile) range. As many as 35% of men who are azoospermic on testosterone (T) may not recover sperm production, even after they stop the T.
Not all physicians who prescribe testosterone supplements are aware of this significant side effect. One study even indicated that some men were prescribed T to increase fertility! This is definitely not the case. If a man, trying to conceive, is experiencing the symptoms of Low T, he should be evaluated by his primary care provider. These symptoms are also consistent with low thyroid, anemia, or other hormonal insufficiency, not just Low T. If a low testosterone is the only abnormal finding, after being thoroughly evaluated, then the patient should let the physician know that he is trying to conceive a child. Other medications such as clomiphene citrate, letrozole or anastrozole can be used to increase testosterone levels and tend to also increase sperm production. If the physician is unaware and/or unsure about prescribing these medications, the man should speak to his partner’s fertility specialist. He/she should be able to make a recommendation for appropriate treatment.