General Interests

Steroids: Male and Female Reproductive Systems and Fertility

Read more to learn more about anabolic steroids and their potential impact on the reproductive system.

Steroids, specifically anabolic-androgenic steroids or “AAS”, are relatively popular in the US—it’s estimated that 1-3% of people have used steroids. Individuals take these steroids primarily for aesthetic purposes and athletic performance, as steroids can increase muscle mass and also has anabolic effects.

Steroids are used by both female and male individuals. Most people who use steroids are male non-athlete weightlifters in their 20s or 30s and are less common among females. A percentage of individuals that are anabolic steroid users, about 22%, started in high school.

Steroids have various impacts on both men and women. Some of the desired impacts include increased muscle mass. However, there are a host of negative effects associated with steroid use.  Some of the negative effects can happen to the male and female reproductive system, which may have an impact on fertility.

Potential negative effects on reproductive system: Men

For men, the negative effects include: decreased reproductive hormones, gynecomastia, impotence, oligospermia, azoospermia, prostatic hypertrophy, and testicular atrophy.

Potential negative effects on reproductive system: Women

For women, the negative effects include: breast atrophy, clitoral hypertrophy, menstrual irregularities, and uterine atrophy.

It’s important to note that prolonged and high doses of testosterone and its derivatives lead to serious consequences in all body tissues and organs.

Can steroids Impact Fertility?

Yes, anabolic steroids can have an impact on fertility

Do anabolic steroids impact male fertility?

One systematic review and meta-analysis study concluded that “Anabolic-androgenic steroid use results in profound and prolonged effects on the reproductive system of athletes and recreational users and potentially on fertility.”

The Cleveland Clinic explains how anabolic steroids impact male fertility. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “when you take testosterone, the hormonal signals that tell your testicles to make testosterone and to make sperm are blocked. Your natural testosterone production then stops. This causes the level of testosterone in the testicles to drop sharply -- too low to support strong sperm production. The most likely outcomes are a very low sperm concentration or a complete absence of sperm from the semen.” It’s important to note that testosterone is an anabolic steroid.

The good news is that this may be reversed in some cases, and it may take six to 12 months for sperm production to return back to normal.

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