Hypogonadism is the medical term for low testosterone — a condition in which your body produces a reduced amount of the male sex hormone. While more prevalent in older men, low T can also affect young folks and thus interfere with their plans to have children. In fact, hypogonadism and infertility have moved further into the forefront in recent years.
A reduction in the synthesis of natural testosterone means that you’re subject to a wide array of possible symptoms. But besides affecting your quality of life, hypogonadism can impact your sex life and alter the dynamics you have with your spouse.
Capable of leading to infertility, hypogonadism can be a factor that determines what your life as a couple or family may look like.
What is Infertility?
If you’re trying to conceive, hitting a bump in the road can be very discouraging. And with many possible causes of infertility, which include hypogonadism, it can be even more frustrating to embark on a sometimes exhaustive journey to determine its root cause.
But what is infertility in the first place?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines infertility as the inability to get pregnant within a one-year window of having frequent and unprotected intercourse.
But not being able to conceive right away, doesn’t mean you can’t at all.
Hypogonadism and Infertility: Understanding the Link
For men, infertility can have various root causes, including hormonal imbalances or disorders affecting the testicles. Hypogonadism is another possible source of infertility — an endocrine issue that’s triggered by a reduction of testosterone.
But HOW exactly does hypogonadism cause infertility? Let’s find out.
Hypogonadism and Infertility in Numbers
Infertility affects about 8 to 12% of couples worldwide, with 40 to 50% of cases originating from male factors — out of which 2% are associated with issues related to the man’s sperm.
Looking at the United States, the numbers are similar — about 9% of men suffer from fertility issues and in about a third of infertile couples, the issue lies with the man. While your chances of having a child decrease with age, for both men and women, the decline is much more gradual for men.
So, how does hypogonadism come into play with infertility?
According to the Endocrine Society, an estimated 35% of men over the age of 45 suffer from hypogonadism and up to 50% of men with obesity or type 2 diabetes do as well.
Here’s the thing: for couples with infertility struggles, the man is said to be 40% likely to be having hypogonadism. Multiple clinical trials have been conducted to analyze and understand the connection between hypogonadism and infertility. A cross-sectional study with 786 infertile male subjects, for example, found a high prevalence of low T in infertile patients.
While other factors may play a contributing role, there is a good probability that your hypogonadism is affecting your fertility.
How Does Hypogonadism Cause Infertility?
Having low testosterone can impact your sperm count — which is the main issue linking hypogonadism and infertility.
What that looks like, you wonder? See, your pituitary gland, which is located in your brain, is responsible for the production of two hormones:
(1) follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
(2) and luteinizing hormone (LH)
LH ensures that the Leydig cells in the testes produce testosterone. FSH and testosterone will then collaboratively stimulate sperm production.
Having low testosterone can thus lead to a lower sperm count, which will naturally reduce your chances of conceiving — however, it wouldn’t make it impossible.
Why is Sperm Count So Important for Your Fertility?
During a single ejaculation, roughly 15 million sperm per milliliter are released and compete to fertilize the egg. With testosterone able to adversely affect your sperm count, the semen produced during intercourse can contain too little sperm.
The thing is that if fewer sperm are discharged during ejaculation, the probability of one of them reaching the egg is lowered — after all, there are fewer sperm available to embark on the journey to the egg in the first place. This means that the likelihood that the egg will be fertilized is reduced.
Conception heavily depends on the amount of sperm produced but factors like sperm morphology and sperm motility are further critical contributors.
How to Treat Infertility that Stems from Hypogonadism?
Depending on the type of hypogonadism you may be suffering from, your healthcare provider may recommend gonadotropin therapy to help with your infertility. Gonadotropins include the two hormones LH and FSH.
There is a wide range of therapies available, including gonadotropin-releasing hormone, FSH, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), and human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG) — with hCG marking a good fit for many patients.
Testosterone supplementation, however, is usually discouraged if infertility has been identified as an issue.
Anything YOU Can Do to Boost Your Testosterone?
If you want to help boost your testosterone naturally, there are simple lifestyle changes that can support your testosterone levels. Your doctor will let you know whether or not you may need additional treatment or therapy.
Here’s what you can do on your end:
(1) Maintain a Healthy Diet
Ensure you’re eating a diverse and nutrient-rich diet. Provide your body with the minerals and vitamins it needs and avoid foods that have been correlated with hypogonadism. These include eating large amounts of bread, dairy products, and sweets, so be sure to increase your intake of dark leafy veggies and home-cooked meals instead.
(2) Keep an Eye on Your BMI & Weight
Maintaining a healthy body weight and body mass index (BMI) is crucial for your overall health. After all, being overweight or obese can affect your testosterone levels. A small study on subjects with secondary hypogonadism showed that weight loss, due to dietary changes and exercise, led to significant improvements in total testosterone levels.
(3) Steer Clear of Triggers of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes can easily be triggered by poor diet and lifestyle habits — in fact, diabetes affects about 37 million Americans, out of which 90 to 95% suffer from type 2 diabetes.
As a man with type 2 diabetes, sadly you are twice as likely to develop hypogonadism, which makes diabetes a huge contributor.
Reach Out to Your Doctor if You Suspect Infertility
If you and your spouse have been trying to conceive for a year and have been unsuccessful, reach out to a qualified healthcare professional to explore possible root causes. If you’ve also noticed symptoms of low T, make sure to let your doctor know right away.
Since there is a possibility that your hypogonadism and infertility are connected, take action and seek professional advice to determine the best therapy option moving forward.
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