Reproduction and Fertility
April 26, 2014 | By Epilepsy Arizona |
Epilepsy does have an impact on reproductive function and fertility. Statistically, men with epilepsy (MWE) have a disproportionately high risk of reproductive dysfunction, which manifests as diminished potency and abnormal sperm characteristics and can decrease fertility. Specific findings regarding reproduction and fertility among MWE include the following:
One study found that MWE were only 36 percent as likely as their male siblings without epilepsy to father a pregnancy.
In a study comparing sperm in healthy males to sperm in MWE, researchers found that all MWE—regardless of whether they were taking antiepileptic medications (AEDs)—exhibit abnormalities in the structure and function of their sperm far more frequently than do healthy males.
How does epilepsy impact male reproductive function and fertility?
Research has found that, in many instances, epilepsy itself has an adverse effect on reproductive function and fertility. The type of epilepsy, age of onset and family history appear to have the biggest impact on reproductive dysfunction and infertility. Specifically, studies find that:
- Men with early age onset of epilepsy (less than 10 years of age) are more reproductively disadvantaged than men who develop epilepsy at a later age.
- Men with partial onset epilepsy are more reproductively disadvantaged than those with generalized onset epilepsy.
- Temporal lobe epilepsy is linked to testicular endocrine dysfunction.
- Males with epilepsy who don’t have a family history of epilepsy are at a greater risk for reproductive dysfunction than MWE who do have a family history of epilepsy.
Do antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) have a negative impact on reproductive function and fertility?
- Researchers have found that some AEDs are associated with reproductive dysfunction, which adversely affects fertility.
- Valproate is linked to sperm tail abnormalities and reduced testicular volume.
- Carbamazepine and oxcarbazepine may cause sperm abnormalities.
Seeking help for reproductive and fertility problems
It’s important to seek professional help if you are concerned about the effects of epilepsy and/or AEDs on your reproductive function and fertility. If you are unsure where to turn, ask your primary care provider to refer you to an appropriate medical professional.
Although epilepsy and many of the drugs used to control it can have adverse effects on reproductive function, thereby reducing fertility, refinements in diagnosing reproductive dysfunction and novel ways to treat it show promise. For instance, innovative means of obtaining a male hormone profile through noninvasive methods make it possible to determine each patient’s precise baseline hormone activity. With this information, clinicians can introduce individually appropriate hormonal (testosterone) therapies for patients, which have been found to improve fertility in males with epilepsy.