Testosterone is a male hormone which is found in humans and also in other animals. It directly works through what is known as androgen receptors, either as testosterone or as dihydrotestosterone. Most of the testosterone in men is derived from testes, although small amounts may be produced in other areas, including adrenal cortex and skin. Testosterone is necessary for the Sertoli cells to produce spermatozoa (sperm) through the process of spermatogenesis.
The production of testosterone (T) is variable at different times of the day. It has been shown that vitamin D and zinc may increase testosterone levels. Deep sleep and weight loss also may improve testosterone levels. These are all excellent ways to combat some of the problems of low T. But use of testosterone through advertised ‘pills and potions’ can backfire on plans of fatherhood by resulting in a decrease in sperm production from the testes. Although this has been known for a long time, most men are not aware of this potential side effect. In our Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility practice, we discovered that several of our patients were taking testosterone for ”low T”, motivated by the promise of an improvement in their daily life, enthusiasm, energy, and libido. Semen analyses on some of our male patients presenting with infertility indicated azoospermia (lack of sperm in the semen), although previous analyses had indicated presence of sperm cells. Upon further discussion, it was discovered that these men were indeed ‘medicating’ with testosterone, viewing it as a harmless “supplement”, rather than as a potent hormone with potential for negative effect on fertility and other health related issues.
Usually this inhibitory effect on spermatogenesis by Testosterone can be reversed in time. However, it can be highly detrimental to Infertility treatments if this information is not known. The loss of time, money and the dreams of having a child are a heavy price to pay.
If somebody is trying to have a child, it is very important to share one’s medical history and use of all prescription medicines including all supplements, even those that may be deemed ‘harmless’. It is equally important for men who are trying to father a child to avoid testosterone supplements in any form.