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Does Bariatric Surgery Increase Male Fertility?

Bariatric surgery may lead to an increase in fertility in men.

March 27, 2019
Bridget Houlihan

Doctors have been telling us for years that obesity is shown to be the cause of many health problems-- including heart disease, diabetes, and chronic joint pain. But what about its effect on fertility? Until recently, most studies that looked at obesity and bariatric surgery-- and its relationship to fertility-- had been done only for women. A new study published in Obesity Surgery focused instead on the effects of bariatric surgery on male fertility. This article will focus on:

  • Obesity and its effect on fertility
  • Bariatric surgery’s link to male fertility
  • What does this mean for couples seeking infertility treatment

someone getting their blood pressure taken
Obesity creates an additional layer of problems for those couples trying to become pregnant who might also be dealing with fertility issues.

Obesity and fertility

Studies have shown that obesity has a large effect on our bodies-- carrying a significant amount of extra weight can cause stress all over the body. But obesity itself can be pared down to just a chronic inflammation of the body.

When the body is chronically inflamed-- it is constantly in a state of stress-- trying to fight off the inflammation. This inflammation can manifest as heart disease or liver problems-- but it also takes a toll on how fertile you are. According to Professor Chris O’Neill of the Human Reproductive Unit at the Knolling Institute of Medical Research-- people need to realize that obesity is a diseased state that is strongly linked to subfertility.

The stress caused by incessant inflammation is noticed in the quality of eggs and sperm seen in obese individuals. Obesity causes the male and female gametes to act differently-- and not operate at their full potential. Even getting fertilization to occur is much more difficult when dealing with gametes from obese individuals. Whether the couple is trying to conceive naturally-- or is using IVF-- there are an increased number difficulties dealing with the sperm and egg. In addition, the time it takes for the obese couple to conceive also takes longer than if they were at a manageable weight.

operating room and doctors
There appears to be a link between bariatric surgery and an increase in male fertility, which is good news for couples trying to conceive.

Can bariatric surgery help male infertility?

The study conducted by the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders examined the relationship between bariatric surgery and its effect on male sex hormones and sperm characteristics. The study looked at the results of over 1000 patients and found that the patients’ testosterone levels increased significantly after bariatric surgery. They also noticed a significant increase in other sex hormones and a decrease in the amount of female sex hormones present.

Because of the changes in hormones, the men in the study also experienced an increase in better erectile function. In addition to hormonal problems associated with obesity, obese men are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction-- which can cause an additional layer of stress to the conception process. By observing men who have undergone bariatric surgery, doctors have noticed a significant increase in erectile performance in men post-surgery.

It was interesting to note in this study that the sperm characteristics that were also observed-- such as volume, concentration, and ability to move-- did not seem to improve in men after bariatric surgery. The researchers suggested that this could be the result of nutritional malabsorption after this particular type of surgery.

couple holding hands
Doctors recommend losing weight developing other healthy lifestyle changes to increase chances of conception.

What does this mean for couples undergoing infertility treatment?

If either partner is obese, you should be aware of the extra factors involved that could be affecting your chances to get pregnant. The extra weight can be causing additional problems-- and doctors suggest that a reduction in weight can have significant advantages for those couples facing infertility problems. Whether you are trying to conceive conventionally-- or if you are already undergoing IVF treatment-- it is important to understand both male and female gametes are not operating at peak performance.

If your partner has recently undergone bariatric surgery, this does appear to be a significant booster in male fertility. The increase in testosterone-- and the decrease in female hormones-- hopefully can help increase your chances of conception. Doctors caution that there could be a myriad of factors that are affecting a couple’s fertility, but all seem to agree that losing weight is a great place to start.

The link between bariatric surgery and an increase in male fertility appears to be correct-- according to the authors of this study. Obesity in general is a huge factor affecting a couple’s fertility-- and efforts should be made by both parties to try and lose the extra weight they are carrying. It will create not only healthy partners-- but more viable sperm and eggs.


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