If you are currently struggling with infertility or were going through treatment prior to the lockdown, you may have had your ears pricked by reports that the Covid-19 virus could lead to infertility in males
The report linking male fertility problems with the virus originated in Hubei in China, even appearing on the government’s website. It said that men who had had the virus and subsequently recovered, should seek further medical advice and testing to see if it had affected their sperm count and quality.
It said, “Clinicians should pay attention to the risk of testicular lesions in patients during hospitalisation and later clinical follow-up, especially the assessment and appropriate intervention in young patients’ fertility”.
The report, which has since been taken down, was issued by a team at the Wuhan based Tongji Hospital’s Reproductive Medicine Centre
Although only going so far as to say the coronavirus could “theoretically” have a negative impact on male fertility, it did explain why – the team thought that the virus could affect an enzyme called ACE2 that is present in the testicles. But, the team didn’t take their findings further and actually assess the fertility of males who had recovered from the virus
Currently, there is no evidence that the virus makes its way to the testes. Nor was the research paper peer reviewed, a robust way of backing up scientific findings
It was this that most alarmed leading male fertility expert Professor Allan Pacey, based at the University of Sheffield. Professor Pacey says, “the article is a ‘short discussion’ paper that has not been peer-reviewed and is ‘highly theoretical”.
“It is intended to alert the medical and scientific community to the possible impact Covid-19 may have on the male reproductive system.”
“At present it is somewhat premature to conclude from this study that Covid-19 will definitely affect male fertility, but it is useful that the authors have raised this concern so that researchers can in due course take a look at the fertility of those who were infected by Covid-19.”
However, if a male didn’t know his fertility status before being infected, it would be impossible to know if any subsequent fertility problems were caused by having the virus.
For men that have recovered from the virus, Professor Pacey recommends speaking to your GP. Three months after recovery, men can have a semen analysis to test their fertility if their GP thinks it necessary.
For some men though, the thought of going to a clinic once everything settles down, is just too much to bear. We received this email from one of our readers
“My husband says he would be reluctant to go to a clinic to give a sperm sample as it would be so embarrassing. He said there is no way he could produce a sample at the clinic, knowing the staff were waiting for him outside the room! I was thinking about leaving a home sperm test in the bathroom. Are they effective? Will it tell me if he has a problem? Are there any specific ones that you know really work?”.
It is very common for a man to feel embarrassed about producing a sample in the clinic. Dr Muhammad Akhtar, who specialises in male infertility at Manchester Fertility, says a semen analysis is a very important first line test if you are experiencing fertility problems.
Dr Akhtar reassured our reader “Your husband can take comfort knowing that a semen sample can be produced at home in a container provided by the clinic, kept warm in an inside pocket and delivered to the clinic within an hour for analysis.
Although there are commercial at home sperm tests available the results would not give the same amount of information that a full semen analysis at a clinic would provide”.
News of Covid-19 and the possible effects on male fertility should not lead to a panic. As the professor says, it is only theoretical at the moment. Once the world is released from it’s lockdown, and surgeries and fertility clinics open their doors again, have a chat to your GP if you are struggling to conceive.
You will find a lot of advice here at IVFbabble about foods and supplements that can improve sperm quality. Take a look through the articles, and if you have any questions, drop us a line at email@example.com and we will get your question to one of our experts.