You often hear about which medications pregnant women should avoid during conception and pregnancy. But, what about her partner? Are there any medications he should avoid during the pregnancy?
Importance of Preconception Health for Men
Avoiding harmful medications and toxic chemicals during the preconception period is important. There may be a delay before your partner knows she is pregnant and good preconception health can help to prevent serious health problems with the fetus.1
We know there are certain medications and other substances that can decrease the fertility of men (and alter a man’s semen) during the preconception stage. Alcohol, cigarettes, and illegal “street drugs” are linked to decreased sperm count, damaged sperm DNA, and decreased semen quality.2 Medicines that can negatively affect male fertility include medications for depression, cancer, epilepsy, enlarged prostate, HIV, acid reflux, and high blood pressure; steroids (including performance-enhancing steroids) and antibiotics can also affect sperm count and quality.2-4
|List of Select Medications That Affect Sperm Count and Quality*|
Calcium channel blockers
*adapted from U.S. Pharmacist article, 2016
The Top 10 Things You Can Do for a Healthy Pregnancy
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend 10 things that men can do to ensure that they stay healthy during the preconception and pregnancy periods.2 The CDC provides additional resources on their website to address each recommendation.
- Make a “reproductive life plan” with your partner
- Prevent and treat sexually-transmitted diseases
- Stop drinking alcohol, smoking, and using “street” drugs
- Limit your exposure to toxic chemicals (ex. lead, mercury vapor, radiation) in the home or at work
- Prevent infertility caused by smoking, certain medications, alcohol, poorly controlled medical conditions,”street drugs,” chemotherapy exposure
- Maintain a healthy weight and eat healthy
- Understand your family history
- Get help for violent behaviors
- Maintain good mental health
- Support your partner
Can I Use Medication During My Partner’s Pregnancy?
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) provides a partner’s guide to pregnancy. Similar to preconception care, men (and women) should avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, using “street drugs” (ex. heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine), and using marijuana or prescription medicine for “non-medical reasons” during pregnancy.5
There are negative health effects for the fetus when you or your partner use cigarettes, alcohol, or illegal drugs before or during pregnancy.6
- Smoking and secondhand smoke are associated with an increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), colic, and childhood obesity and asthma.
- Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of fetal alcohol syndrome, birth defects, and physical, intellectual, and behavioral disabilities.
- Illegal drugs are associated with increased risk of birth defects, miscarriage, stillbirth, fetal death, and poor fetal growth.
Some research shows that prescription medicine and illegal drugs can be transmitted through semen or sperm to the pregnant female or fetus by vaginal absorption; however, the concentration of medication reaching the woman or fetus may be several times lower than the original dose.7 There are many studies that evaluate the transmission of HIV medications through the semen. Further research is needed to identify the risk of exposure of the pregnant woman or fetus to chemicals transmitted through semen or sperm.
Talking to Your Doctor
Men with chronic medical conditions and on prescription medications for these conditions should appropriately manage their conditions. Since many medications are linked to negative effects on male sperm or the developing fetus, it is important to talk to your doctor to make sure it is safe to take your prescription medication during the preconception and pregnancy periods. In some cases, you and your doctor may have to weigh the risks versus benefits of continuing on certain medications during your partner’s pregnancy.1