Synthetic Testosterone May Affect Fertility

Browse the Internet for information about anabolic steroids, and you will discover a story of turbocharged manhood: huge muscles, adoring women, and youthful energy… But for men also hoping to father children, there may be some vital information missing. Using testosterone supplements can most likely cause a man’s sperm count to plummet, often to zero. Getting it back can be costly and take years. Among heavy steroid users, it may never return. Even in the medical community, the effects of testosterone on a man’s ability to reproduce are often misunderstood. Several top fertility experts say they often see patients whose regular doctors have placed them on testosterone replacement therapy to treat various ailments – often successfully – without explaining that it might also make them infertile. When artificial testosterone is introduced into the body, the pituitary gland in the brain senses its presence and shuts off the supply of hormones that stimulate the testicles to make their own testosterone and sperm. The brain cannot differentiate natural testosterone from synthetic, so it shuts down its own sperm-making mechanisms. “There’s a chemical castration going on,” said Dr. Paul J. Turek [assoc prof, urology, Univ of CA, San Francisco]. Dr. Turek said it was odd that men abuse testosterone to increase their manliness. “In fact, they’ve become less of a man,” he said. “They can’t do what men are supposed to do.” Dr. Rebecca Z. Sokol [male-fertility specialist & prof, Keck School of Medicine, Univ of Southern Cal] said that about 10 percent of her patients were seeking to reverse the damage from testosterone supplements. She estimated that half of those patients...