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Testosterone Supplements and Male Infertility

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a blog by Genna Banafato, June 24, 2013

It seems like you can't turn on the television these days without seeing an advertisement for testosterone supplements. They are touted as the cure for everything from low energy to low libido. However, one of the most common side effects of treatment with testosterone supplementation is also one of the least talked about. Taking a testosterone supplement can plummet your sperm count.

Dr. Seth Derman from Princeton IVF has recently started a blog which brought my attention to a study presented in May at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association which looked at men who were seeking fertility treatment but were also taking a testosterone supplement. As a Reproductive Endocrinologist, Dr. Derman says that he wouldn't treat the low testosterone himself. After insisting they stop the supplement, he would refer to a fellowship trained urologist for treatment (typically with clomid or HCG). Many patients will choose to do IVF with ICSI or IUI in the meantime, while others wait and hope to see improvement.

Because this isn't a widely discussed effect of supplementation and some men may not divulge that they are taking a supplement in the first place, it is unknown how many cases of unexplained male infertility can be attributed to this. After all, even medical treatment is scarcely talked about, calling it low "T", instead of low testosterone, as if it's something that should not be discussed.

The bottom line, as with any medical treatment, men need to be honest with their doctors about what supplements they may be taking and consider not taking testosterone as a supplement until they are done having biological children, since the effects on sperm are not definitively known.