Male Infertility and Ibuprofen? Is There a Connection?
A small study linking male infertility and ibuprofen use garnered national attention recently. If you saw the news you may be thinking twice before taking the popular painkiller. We asked Jatin Gupta, DO, a urologist experienced in male fertility, voiding issues, stone disease and minimally invasive surgery with LVPG Urology–Muhlenberg what he thought of the headlines and the research behind them.
“Headlines are designed to get your attention,” says Gupta. “Yet it’s best to avoid making extreme conclusions. Talk to your doctor if you have a concern about fertility and require frequent pain control.”
The study was small – comprised of 31 healthy male athletes in Denmark and France. Half the athletes took a daily dose of ibuprofen (1,200 mg) for 6 weeks, which led to changes in their reproductive hormones and testicular function.
While research provides beneficial information to physicians and the public, some studies don’t produce enough evidence to make them conclusive.
“Male fertility is made up of a complex balance of hormones, pH levels, testicular function, sperm count, motility (power to move), and concentration,” Gupta says. “This study was limited in scope and didn’t include a semen analysis, which would have made it more helpful.”
For now, Gupta isn’t changing his recommendation about ibuprofen use. Rather, healthy people with chronic pain should see their doctor to explore non-medicinal pain management therapies.
“If you’re self-medicating with ibuprofen or Tylenol (acetaminophen) for more than seven days you should talk to your doctor to figure out the source of your pain,” Gupta says. “Physical therapy can help you get at the root cause of your pain. Hot baths and other non-medicinal therapies may also help.”
And if you are having trouble conceiving after 12 months of unprotected sex, both partners should have fertility testing. A urologist can test for infertility in men through hormone studies and a semen analysis. And all men can improve their fertility life by adopting a healthy lifestyle before conception.
“Good nutrition and exercise are an important part of your overall health, including fertility,” says Gupta. “Men are often surprised that alcohol and smoking negatively impact fertility. Opioids and other illicit drug use have a profound effect on fertility and the odds of conceiving a healthy baby.”