Too Much of a Good Thing: Why Testosterone Replacement Therapy is Dangerous to Fertility

More energy. Less fat. More muscle mass. Better libido.

These are all purported results from Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), a medical treatment that supplements a man’s testosterone through hormonal skin patches, gels, mouth patches, or injections and implants.

Image Credit:  Brian Hoskis  via  Stock.XCHNG

Image Credit: Brian Hoskis via Stock.XCHNG

Sounds great, right? Sign me up! Well, not so fast.

Side Effects of TRT

Despite its compelling benefits, there are just as many—if not more—substantial risks with TRT. This treatment increases the risk of heart attack not only in older men, but also in younger men with a history of heart disease.

TRT can also make benign prostatic hypertrophy worse and can even stimulate prostate cancer to grow. Other issues TRT can worsen include sleep apnea and erythrocytosis (high blood count), making blood thicker and more prone to clotting.

TRT and Infertility

Infertility is an often under-represented risk of TRT. In fact, supplemental testosterone from outside the body is so effective at stopping sperm production that it was once considered as a potential method of birth control.

A recent study published in Fertility and Sterility found that while testosterone use among fertility patients was actually relatively low, its effects were nonetheless devastating. Even after six months of discontinued use of testosterone, more than a third of men studied did not regain the ability to produce sperm.

The Future of Testosterone Use

While testosterone use in patients struggling to conceive is relatively low, statistics say it’s likely to rise. Between 2000 and 2011, the prescription of supplemental testosterone increased by more than 850 percent in the U.S., according to new research. The study authors believe that new, easy-to-use forms of testosterone along with television marketing are primarily responsible for the rise in prescription rates.

Over the same period, global pharmaceutical sales of testosterone increased from about 150 million to 1.8 billion dollars. Obviously someone is benefitting from this substantial increase in the use of supplemental testosterone. Unfortunately, it’s usually not the patient taking the testosterone.

Before you or your partner pursue TRT, be sure to weigh the risks of the treatment—especially if you’re thinking of trying to conceive.

Try natural ways of increasing testosterone instead. Losing weight, increasing your exercise, reducing stress, eating healthier, and getting more sleep can all have a positive impact on your testosterone levels. And guess what? None of these lifestyle improvements will increase your risk of heart attack or make you infertile. Quite the contrary!


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