Male Fertility and COVID: What You Need to Know

by
Parsley Health
Author
November 14, 2022

Family planning can be impacted by the COVID-19 virus. Where do we go from here?

Whether you’re trying to become pregnant or trying to avoid it, understanding your fertility and the environmental factors that can impact our reproductive systems is vital to doing it right—and this knowledge is just as important for men as it is for women. After all, one-third of conception issues originate with men, and that number could be on the rise.

With a recent study showing that COVID has had an impact on male fertility rates, we decided to dive into the factors that contribute to male infertility and how COVID plays a role.

Genetics, lifestyle, and age

Male fertility largely begins and ends with sperm quality. You may already know that sperm count, shape, and movement have a huge bearing on whether or not a man is capable of fertilizing an egg, but there are many other factors that can impact sperm viability.

  • Your medical history: Medication, whether or not you’ve had an STI, and surgical procedures can all contribute to sperm count.
  • Your hormone levels: Testosterone is one of the main hormones responsible for sperm creation. If your levels are low, that may impact your sperm count.
  • Physical obstructions: Some men are born without the vas deferens, which is the main pathway that sperm moves through from the epididymis to the urethra. Others might develop a vas deferens blockage that affects how much sperm can make it through the male reproductive system.

Lifestyle choices and chronic health issues can also play a role in whether or not a man is fertile enough to help create a pregnancy. Luckily, there are steps that can be taken to help improve fertility early on in the pregnancy planning process.

The COVID factor

Recently, there has been another development in fertility science that could reveal the culprit for some couples struggling to become pregnant over the past couple years: COVID. In a study funded earlier this year by the National Institutes of Health, it was found that men who contracted SARS-CoV-2 saw that their fertility was temporarily impaired for a 60-day window.

But how could that be? And why was it temporary? This has to do with one of the main symptoms of a COVID infection: fever. When your body experiences a fever as an immune system response, it heats up to fight the infection. The same thing happens if you sit in a hot tub for too long, but with a fever, that elevated temperature fluctuation is prolonged. The heat negatively impacts sperm count and movement , which are key factors in healthy male fertility.

This has to do with where the sperm are located within the body. Sperm are stored in the testicles which reside in the scrotum. The testicles maintain a temperature that is about two degrees lower than the body’s core temperature, and they are sensitive to temperature fluctuations. That temperature control is vital for the production of semen and maintaining a healthy sperm count. That’s why when the body experiences a fever (or a trip to the hot tub), fertility is temporarily impacted. Luckily, 60 days after a COVID infection, the men participating in the study were found to have their sperm count return to normal without any negative long-term impact.

The NIH study also concluded that the COVID vaccines did not impact fertility in any way, making continued exposure to the vaccines one less thing to worry about for couples looking to conceive.

Need support on your fertility journey?

If you or your partner are interested in learning more about your reproductive health, Parsley Health is here for you. Schedule a free 15-minute consultation here and find out how Parsley can help.

by
Parsley Health
Author

Parsley Health is the doctor that helps you live healthier, longer, by treating the root cause of symptoms and conditions. Our medical teams—staffed by leading clinicians and health coaches—spend more time with you, order the right tests, and prescribe food, sleep and movement alongside medications so you can get better—and feel better.

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