Anabolic Steroids & Sperm Health

The Impact of Steroids on Male Fertility

Anabolic steroids are a topic of concern for fertility. The use of anabolic steroids extends beyond professional athletes and bodybuilders. Some amateur athletes and gym enthusiasts also use steroids in the hope of increasing stamina and building muscle.

This growing trend is worrying because anabolic steroids have detrimental health impacts. They are also hazardous for men of childbearing age due to their affect on sperm health and production.

How Do Anabolic Steroid Work?

Anabolic steroids are sometimes called androgenic steroids because they’re synthetic variations of male sex hormones (androgens). They act similarly to testosterone in the body, so they may increase muscle mass and endurance.

Steroids are not always harmful. Often, they are used as medications, but it is their illegal use that creates problems. Anabolic drugs contain a significantly higher amount of synthetic androgens, and their use is often without any regulation.

They Decrease Your Testosterone Secretion

You may wonder why testosterone, a sex hormone, isn’t good for male fertility.

When your body has excessive testosterone, your brain signals it to stop making more. This is referred to as a negative feedback loop.

When you use anabolic steroids, your body interprets it as excessive testosterone because the structure is similar. Your brain signals your body to suppress hormone production, and the testes stop making their own testosterone. When this continues for long periods of time, the testes’ ability to produce testosterone decreases.

Testosterone production is critical for sperm production, so decreased testosterone may lead to lower sperm counts.

Low testosterone also decreases libido and contributes to erectile dysfunction.

Does It Help If I Don’t Take Them In Excess?

The influence of steroids on sperm health may be dose-dependent. Excessive amounts and continuous use seem to have a more significant impact, but small doses also have an effects.

Should I Be Worried If I Have Used Steroids In The Past?

The damage due to anabolic steroids may be reversible to a certain extent. Your body can overcomes testosterone suppression and resumes its production, but you may experience symptoms like withdrawal.

Semen analysis may begin to improve four months after quitting anabolic steroids. However, it may take time to regain your usual vigor and fertility.

What Should I Do If I Need To Take Steroids?

Many people need to take steroids for medical reasons, and that is okay. However, it is always a good idea to monitor your fertility levels. You can use an in-home sperm analysis testing kit, to keep track of changes in your sperm parameters.

If the possibility of deteriorating sperm quality concerns you, you also have alternatives for preserving your fertility. Sperm freezing may be effective way to store your sperm.

If you foresee being on long term steroids in the future for any reason, it is better to save your sperm when they are healthy.

References

  1. Ganesan K, Rahman S, Zito PM. Anabolic Steroids. [Updated 2021 Nov 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482418/
  2. Knuth, U. A., Maniera, H., & Nieschlag, E. (1989). Anabolic steroids and semen parameters in bodybuilders. Fertility and sterility, 52(6), 1041–1047.
  3. Torres-Calleja, J., González-Unzaga, M., DeCelis-Carrillo, R., Calzada-Sánchez, L., & Pedrón, N. (2001). Effect of androgenic anabolic steroids on sperm quality and serum hormone levels in adult male bodybuilders. Life sciences, 68(15), 1769–1774.