The most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant is a class called SSRI, which stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and includes the drugs Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Luvox, and Lexapro. An article recently published by Fox.com discussed how SSRIs can decrease a man’s sperm count by as much as half, and can also affect sperms’ shape and motility (how well they move).
The Fox.com story called this a recently-discovered and little-known side effect of SSRIs, but a 2009 study of the drug Paxil also found that that drug affected men’s fertility: “In the study of 35 healthy volunteers without psychiatric disorders, the antidepressant induced abnormal sperm DNA fragmentation in more than 40% of participants,” reported Medscape.com.
The study author went on to say that that DNA fragmentation is a good way to measure a man’s natural fertility as well as his fertility through assisted reproductive techniques like IVF. “What the study tells us is that paroxetine [Paxil] could have an effect on fertility that will not show up in standard sperm tests — and cause an increase in genetic damage to sperm,” said senior author Peter Schlegel, M.D., chair of the department of urology and professor of reproductive medicine at Weill Cornell Medical Center, in New York City, as reported by Medscape.
A complicating factor is the fact that SSRIs often affect libido (sexual desire) and can hurt a man’s ability to perform sexually. As many as 35 percent of the men in the 2009 study experienced erectile dysfunction after starting antidepressant therapy, and nearly half reported “significant declines in ejaculatory function.”
There is good news, though: Both reports note that once a man stops taking the drug, sperm levels return to normal quickly – about a month after stopping the SSRI.
Depression is a serious illness, and should be treated. If you are experiencing the following symptoms, consider seeking help:
- difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- fatigue and decreased energy
- feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- irritability, restlessness
- loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- overeating or appetite loss