Does COVID-19 Affect Fertility in Men?

Ilustration of male sperm to egg
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Did you know that every time the body fights a virus, it can temporarily affect the male sperm count? Currently, it has been close to two years since the world got to know about the covid virus, but researchers are still trying to determine how the coronavirus is affecting everyone.

While it was initially thought to be affecting only the respiratory system, we know today that the virus can affect almost every part of our body, including the reproductive system.

With the emergence of new strains, such as the Delta variant we are currently being exposed to, researchers are learning more each day concerning how it affects different parts of our bodies and one of these studies is about how it affects the health of the male sperm. 

In this post, we take a closer look at this particular issue. So let’s get started. 

The Possible Effect of COVID-19 on Male Sperm 

As with many studies of covid consequences, researchers are still collecting evidence to support this claim. COVID-19 is a viral infection, and every time a body fights a virus, it temporarily affects the sperm count. However, how long COVID-19 affects male fertility is still being studied. 

In a small study of about 190 men, researchers collected the semen sample to assess the quality of sperm health. The semen was analyzed based on three criteria. 

      • The amount of sperm released at each ejaculation 
      • The shape and size of the sperm  
      • The ability of sperm to move through the female reproductive tract 

In this comparative study, researchers collected semen from 84 fertile men who were diagnosed with COVID-19, along with 105 fertile men who were not exposed to the virus. The semen was collected once every ten days over a period of 30 days. The results indicated that the infection affected sperm health on all three criteria, including sperm concentration, shape and size, and the ability to move through the female body. 

However, the effects tend to improve over time, but the time it takes for sperm to regain health depends upon the severity of the infection and the treatment provided at the time of infection. 

Pandemic Stress May Be the Culprit 

While there is limited evidence of how COVID-19 affects male fertility and sperm health, there is evidence that men who have frequent anxiety are more likely to have poor sperm health. These men have a less concentration of semen during ejaculation. Additionally, their sperms are more likely to be distorted or impaired, which affects their motility to travel inside the female body and subsequently, reduces the likelihood of fertilization. 

When a person is anxious, the body releases a hormone to respond known as glucocorticoids. It is a steroid that affects the concentration of sperm by altering the levels of testosterone in the male body. Another possible effect is oxidative stress resulting from an unhealthy lifestyle, consumption of processed foods, and exposure to free radicals due to environmental pollution.  

Amidst the pandemic and the associated uncertainty, more people have been known to be apprehensive. While some people get nervous in their job environment, others experience the stress of managing work from home. Yet, some men are concerned about the possible effects of immunization. Moreover, there is additional stress due to limited social interaction as well as maintaining social distance and the uncertainty associated with the pandemic.

Given that anxiety negatively affects sperm health, it goes without saying that pandemics can be an addition that also negatively affects sperm health among men.  

Things to Do in Times of Uncertainty 

There is limited evidence of how COVID-19 might impact male fertility; however, the effect of stress on sperm is well-documented. Moreover, several other factors may affect the quality of sperm and hence the fertility of men. Hence, it is critical to take care of the following factors in this time of pandemic and uncertainty. 

Manage Stress 

One of the most important things to do in pandemic and associated uncertainty is managing stress. Here are some of the practical ways you can use to manage stress. 

      • Take frequent breaks from watching news related to pandemics, including the ones you scroll through social media. 
      • Give your body time to unwind every day, even when you are working at home, 
      • Connect with friends and family while taking care of all the necessary precautions to control the spread of COVID-19.
      • Try to make out time for incorporating hobbies and activities of your choice. 
      • Practice meditation.  

Consume a Balanced/Healthy Diet 

Assorted Fruits

And while you practice ways to manage stress, don’t forget the role of consuming a balanced diet.

Ensure your diet contains all the essential food groups, including proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, minerals, and vitamins. It is particularly important to include vitamins A, B, C, and E in your diet as they give a boost to your immunity, but also add in minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium so you can maintain a healthy body. 

Another essential component of your diet should be anti-inflammatory foods. Since inflammation and oxidative stress can have a negative impact on sperm quality, make sure your foods are loaded with anti-inflammatory properties. Some of the anti-inflammatory foods you can include in your diet are olives, olive oil, tomatoes, fatty fish, berries, and nuts. 

Keep Moving

According to research, there is a positive correlation between physical exercise and sperm quality measured using three criteria.

    • The amount of sperm released at each ejaculation, 
    • The shape and size of the sperm, and 
    • The ability of sperm to move through the female reproductive tract.  

The results claim that men who maintain a healthy lifestyle that incorporates physical activity have better sperm quality than those who do not work out. This most likely is even more significant for seniors.

And while being physically active is important, it is critical to avoid strenuous and high-intensity workouts. A moderate workout for 30 minutes on most days of the week will help you maintain your weight. Moreover, it will reduce your risk of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, and will also keep your reproductive health in great shape. 

Maintain a Healthy Weight 

Balance chart for Ketogenic Diet

Male obesity has been linked to poor sperm quality, and the link has been established through extensive research.

Additionally, male obesity is also linked to lower chances of pregnancy using in-vitro fertilization. Hence, you must maintain a healthy weight, which will positively affect your sperm health and, eventually, your fertility. 

Bottom Line 

COVID-19 is in many aspects still a mystery for mankind. Researchers and scientists around the world are trying to understand how the disease impacts the human body. While there is limited evidence that COVID-19 can reduce male fertility, there is a strong correlation between stress and sperm health. By incorporating stress management techniques, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight through physical exercise, you can maintain good overall health as well as enjoy a positive effect on the health of your sperm.