Male infertility can have an array of causes and is frequently associated with low sperm count or impaired testosterone production. Treatments include injection therapy with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) — but hCG can have side effects on prostate health, so what do you do?
While there is no one right fertility treatment for all patients, explore your options and consult with a qualified healthcare professional and fertility specialist. This also entails discussing the potential side effects and limitations of each treatment.
Understanding the why is imperative as treatments heavily rely on the root cause of your condition.
What is hCG?
Human chorionic gonadotropin, also known as hCG, is a glycoprotein hormone that affects fertility in both men and women. In men, it can aid in the production of testosterone and can increase sperm count in individuals hoping to start a family. It’s thus, commonly used in younger males who are struggling with low testosterone and infertility.
Just like the two gonadotropins luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) — which are produced in the pituitary gland — research suggests that small amounts of hCG are also synthesized in the pituitary gland, alongside a unique β subunit.
A study conducted on patients using hCG injections found a range of benefits including significant increases in serum testosterone levels, penile growth, and testicular volume — all of which can contribute to improved fertility.
More than ever, younger men are now presenting with low testosterone — a trend that underlines the importance of offering treatment options that address hypogonadism without the reduction of sperm count, the impairment of spermatogenesis in any way, and adverse effects on infertility.
When Will Your Doctor Suggest hCG Therapy?
Your physician might suggest intramuscular hCG injections if your hypogonadism (low testosterone) is connected to the use of anabolic steroids — some of which can be misused by athletes. It’s also typically used for the treatment of hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH), which is caused by a disorder in the hypothalamus or pituitary gland.
This is because hCG is sometimes used as an alternative to traditional testosterone therapy in young males, given its ability to fill a role similar to that of the luteinizing hormone (LH). LH is produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates the Leydig cells in the testicles, hence boosting the production of endogenous testosterone.
Inadequate levels of LH can lead to significant impairment in the production of in-house testosterone. This, in turn, can reduce the production of sperm that would usually occur in the testicles. By replacing LH with hCG, spermatogenesis can be re-established, thus increasing your fertility.
hCG Side Effects on Prostate Health
Like other treatments, the use of hCG injections can have side effects, particularly on your prostate health. The hCG hormone interacts with many of your body’s natural functions and processes and has garnered significant interest in the context of men’s reproductive health.
Injections of hCG stimulate the production of testosterone and adequate levels of testosterone are critical for the health of your prostate. Significantly low levels of testosterone, for example, were found to contribute to more aggressive forms of prostate cancer — in patients diagnosed with the disease.
In addition, there is a lot of ongoing research investigating the correlation between hCG injections and prostate enlargement — leading to the development of what’s known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). While opinions are divided, one study found no changes due to hCG in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and the size of the prostate.
BPH is a common prostate condition that becomes more prevalent with age, affecting about half of the men ages 51 to 60. One of the most profound symptoms is frequent urination, especially at night.
Since human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone, hCG side effects on prostate health can be many. Maintaining hormone balance is thus critical for the health of your prostate as fluctuations may lead to the development or progression of various prostate conditions.
Prostate Cancer and hCG: Understanding the Link
There has been much debate about the link between prostate cancer and hCG injections as hCG is thought to stimulate prostate cancer cells. Research is ongoing and the role of hCG remains unclear, however, it is thought to play a part in the growth of prostate cancer.
Early development of prostate cancer feeds on androgens, which means that it requires testosterone to grow. At a certain point, however, the cancer becomes androgen-independent and continues to grow even when testosterone levels drop so much that they become undetectable.
Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer and comprises symptoms, like changes in urination and erectile dysfunction. It is fatal for roughly 34,000 people in the U.S. every year.
Since hCG stimulates testosterone production it has been argued that it could exacerbate the growth of prostate cancer cells in certain patients — given that prostate cancer relies on androgens to grow. Manipulating hormone levels, including that of testosterone can therefore link prostate cancer and hCG.
Schedule Regular Prostate Screenings
Reach out to your healthcare provider if you have questions about how prostate cancer and hCG interlink and discuss the side effects of hCG on prostate health within the context of infertility treatments.
Depending on whether you’ve been diagnosed with testosterone deficiency, present with a low sperm count, or have other infertility issues, there might be different options available for you.
Regular hypogonadism may also be treated with testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), albeit it’s generally not prescribed for younger males. Your doctor will take your medical background into account and advise you on the best possible treatment for you specifically.
Whether you are or are not taking hCG injections, make sure to schedule regular prostate screenings that are done annually or every two years, depending on your age and an array of other factors. Your doctor will check your PSA level and conduct a digital rectal examination (DRE) to get ahead of any cancer that may be developing.
Your health is important and we want to help you take care of it. Sign up for our newsletter and keep learning about prostate health and low testosterone.