How a Father’s Medication May Impact a Developing Baby
Even if your medication does not affect your fertility, you may still be concerned it could harm your baby – before or after conception. The good news is that outcome is quite rare.
While medications you take might be found in semen, the amount is generally very low. Furthermore, absorption in the vagina during sex is also very low, so potential exposure is unlikely to harm your developing baby.
A 2013 study of 340,000 pregnancies found no increase in adverse pregnancy outcomes among fathers who were prescribed a medication known to be harmful to babies when taken by a pregnant woman. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant women to relieve nausea. Tragically, it resulted in severe birth defects in thousands of children.
Today, thalidomide is used to treat Hansen’s disease (formerly known as leprosy) and some rheumatic disorders, AIDS-related conditions, and cancers. While the levels of thalidomide found in semen have been very low, the risk level for the fetus is enough that we err on the side of caution and recommend men avoid the drug for three months before conception.
Some cytotoxic drugs also can damage DNA in sperm cells, which can result in pregnancy loss, preterm birth, or an increased risk of birth defects. Again, in these cases your doctor may recommend you avoid the drug for three months before trying to conceive.
Why three months? Because sperm formation takes about 74 days and another 12 to 21 days to make it to the ejaculatory ducts.
Worried About Your Medication? Don’t Hesitate to Ask
If you and your partner are thinking about becoming parents or your partner is already pregnant, let your health care provider know so you can discuss potential fertility obstacles related to your condition or medication and how to mitigate them – whether that means putting a medication on hold, changing to a new one, or undergoing fertility preservation procedures.
As with anything related to your health, you should always feel comfortable to ask questions about any prescribed or over-the-counter medication. We want to do everything we can to keep you healthy while also helping you achieve your family goals.