How Certain Drugs Can Affect Male Fertility

When a couple is experiencing infertility they will generally seek medical help to determine where the problem lies and how it can be overcome. Infertility is typically diagnosed when a couple is unable to become pregnant after a year of regular, unprotected sex. Nearly 8-10% of couples will experience infertility, and of these, approximately 39-41% can be attributed to male infertility due to low sperm counts, poor sperm quality, or a combination of the two.

How is Male Fertility Adversely Affected?

There are several mechanisms through which male fertility can be negatively impacted including toxic effects directly to the testicles, pituitary gland disruption, ejaculation or erectile dysfunctions, a decrease in sex drive, or a blockage which hinders the sperm's ability to fertilize an egg. Certain medications can be directly responsible to damaging cells which produce sperm, lowering the sperm count and can even disrupt the connection between the pituitary gland and the testicles.

Which Drugs Can Have Negative Consequences?

Recreational drugs such as alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, opiates or cocaine can affect the male pituitary gland, leading to erectile dysfunction. Alcohol and opiates are also responsible for a decrease in male libido. Smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco have both been shown to cause a variety of fertility problems in men and women both. Smoking can cause men to have lowered sperm count with poor motility. Marijuana use can have an even more severe, impact on male fertility including a decrease in seminal fluid, poor sperm motility and the sperm that do make it to the vaginal canal have been shown to be over-stimulated due to the THC in marijuana, causing them to slow down and be unable to break through the egg's outer casing.

Blood Pressure Medications

Certain blood pressure medications can also be responsible for decreasing male fertility. Beta blockers can cause a decrease in sex drive as well as erectile dysfunction, while blood pressure medications known as calcium channel blockers could potentially block fertilization. Other types of blood pressure medications such as spironolactones have been shown to affect the pituitary gland, cause a decrease in sex drive and cause varying levels of erectile dysfunction.

Hormones and Depression Medications

Men who are taking certain hormones for medical conditions such as prostate cancer may also find their fertility negatively impacted. Progesterone and estrogens can affect the pituitary, decrease libido and cause erectile dysfunction, while androgen blockers will have the same effects except they do not typically cause erectile dysfunction. Drugs used to treat depression or other psychological issues can also cause male impotence, decreased sex drive and will affect the pituitary. These drug categories include anti-psychotics, tricyclic antidepressants, MAO inhibitors and lithium.

Antibiotics and Ulcer Medications

While most "regular" antibiotics do not have a direct effect on male fertility, tetracycline is the exception, and has been shown to block fertilization when taken for any length of time. Stronger antibiotics, such as nitrofurantoins which are used to treat severe urinary tract infections have been shown to lower a man's sperm count, while aminoglycosides which are reserved for serious bacterial infections have been shown to reduce sperm count, as well as sperm motility. Finally, an ulcer medication known as cimetidine has been shown to increase prolactin levels, resulting in male fertility problems such as lowered sperm count, decreased sex drive and lowered sexual functioning.

If you and your partner are experiencing infertility problems, it is important that you stop using recreational drugs altogether. If you are currently taking a blood pressure medication, antibiotic or ulcer medication which can cause infertility issues, talk to your doctor to see if there is an acceptable substitute which doesn't have the same effect on male fertility.

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