Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as sertraline, fluoxetine, paroxetine and clomipramine, are some of the more popular drugs prescribed today. They are often prescribed for patients with depression, anxiety, and a number of other disorders, but more recently they have also been routinely prescribed for men who suffer from premature ejaculation.
According to the American Urological Association, premature ejaculation is relatively common, occurring in up to 30 percent of the male population. But this condition may cause depression and anxiety, in addition to the physical symptoms that patients experience.
Now there is evidence that sertraline, in particular, may cause damage to men’s sperm.
Sertraline vs. behavioral therapy
In a study published earlier this year in Urology, two groups of men were followed for a period of three months. One group was administered sertraline, commonly marketed as Zoloft, and the other used behavioral therapy to treat their premature ejaculation.
The men’s semen was analyzed both before and after the trial period. The men who’d used behavioral therapy demonstrated no significant difference in the quality of their semen before and after the study. But the men who’d used sertraline did have differences in their semen after the trial.
The sperm concentration of the men who’d used sertraline was significantly reduced, and the percentage of sperm with a normal morphology was lower, too. Not only that, there was a higher incidence of damage to sperm DNA after the sertraline trial.
What about other drugs?
Further study will be required to determine whether similar effects are seen with use of other related medications. Some of these commonly prescribed drugs are sold under the brand names Prozac, Paxil and Anafranil. Men may be taking them to treat premature ejaculation, depression, anxiety, or many other disorders.
Consequences for patients
Because this was a short term trial, lasting only three months, it is impossible to extrapolate what, if any damage may result from long term treatment with sertraline or related antidepressants. But for men who are actively trying to produce a child, even short term negative effects to sperm count and quality may not be worth the risk.
As I wrote in a recent article, unresolved infertility itself can have major consequences, not just on an individual’s mental health, but on a couple’s marriage.
The doctors involved in this study recommend that the date be carefully considered when treating men who may be trying to conceive. Behavioral therapy may be the better option for men who are suffering from premature ejaculation and also want to have a child.
More by Tavia:
Is Unresolved Infertility a Marriage Killer?
Infertility Was Easier the Second Time Around
Helping an infertile friend survive Mother’s Day