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Are Antidepressants a Factor in Male Infertility?

Does your man take antidepressants? It may be taking a toll on his sperm count.

The Scoop

Antidepressants may be among the most commonly prescribed medications in the US, especially SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), but research suggests that a little-known side effect of antidepressants in men could be the significant toll they take on sperm count and sperm production, reports Fox News.

Just how significant? For some guys, SSRIs may lower sperm count by as much as 50 percent and lead to changes in the shape and motility (movement) of sperm. Sperm may be affected within the first month after treatment and continues to worsen after three months on an SSRI.

Specifically, “SSRIs cause the sperm to be abnormally shaped and unable to swim properly, which is believed to be a direct result of the medication on the sperm itself. These changes in shape and function of sperm, added to the drop in overall sperm count, can push men into the ‘infertile’ range while he is taking the SSRI,” writes psychiatrist Madeleine M. Castellanos, author of A Man’s Guide to Sexual Issues (via Fox News).

Dr. Castellanos also points out that chronic stress and depression can lower a man’s level of testosterone, which in turn can decrease his sperm count. “Add to that any depression or anxiety treated with an SSRI, and he may unsuspectingly become infertile while he and his partner are trying to conceive,” she notes.

His Fertility

Could your guy’s SSRI be what’s at the root of why you’re not getting pregnant? The good news, says Dr. Castellanos, is that the situation is reversible and corrects itself once the medication is discontinued. However, don’t stop depression medications “cold turkey.” Instead, men should consult with the physician who prescribed them and devise an alternate plan for treating the depression or anxiety. Abruptly stopping medications could lead to other negative side effects, warns Dr. Castellanos.

If your partner takes an SSRI for the treatment of premature ejaculation, rather than depression, as is sometimes the case, it’s still a good idea to consult with the doctor who prescribed the medicine as part of a preconception checkup. If the SSRI seems to be negatively affecting fertility, men may be able to take a “holiday” from using the SSRIs in order to return to previous levels of fertility. Dr. Castellanos says that men should consider the side effects and possibly stop the SSRI and choose to deal with premature ejaculation while they are trying to conceive, then resume taking the medication their partner becomes pregnant.

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