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Steroid Use May Lead to Fertility Impairment Amongst Younger Women

June 19, 2019

Due to a link between performance enhancing drugs and risk taking behavior, young adults who use anabolic steroids are also more likely to use cocaine and engage with other forms of addiction.  Approximately ⅓ of young adults who take anabolic steroids, also use cocaine. Little research, however, has been done concerning this link in adolescents, particularly adolescent females. Furthermore, this new rodent study begins to illuminate the fertility impairment that could occur were anabolic steroids to be mixed with highly addictive drugs such as cocaine.

Here are the main points for discussion:  

  • Steroids can lead to infertility
  • What it all means and what you need to know

Steroids can lead to infertility

Here’s how they found out

At the University of Puerto Rico, researchers separated female rats into four subgroups:

  1. one group exposed to nandrolone
  2. one group exposed to nandrolone  and cocaine
  3. one group exposed to cocaine only
  4. and a control group exposed to neither
female white rat with red eyes looking out from her cage
The experiment used female rats to test the effects that nandrolone and cocaine had on their fertility.  Image from Hastings Center

They exposed half of them to nandrolone a common anabolic steroid in young adults, over a period of 10 days, and found that those exposed to it were more sensitive to the cocaine. They measured this through what scientists call a locomotor sensitization, or the measure of their behavioral alteration.  

Additionally, the nandrolone subgroups showed reduced ovarian weight and a development of ovarian cysts. Both of these conditions can contribute to a future difficulty with fertility. Also note that the rats who were only exposed to cocaine, did not show the same level of drug induced locomotor sensitization as the rats who were exposed to nandrolone, thereby indicating the performance enhancing drug is more of a risk factor.

What should you take from this?

The research coincides with a well known theory: adolescent androgen exposure (the steroid) modifies a still developing brain that regulates addictive behaviors, thereby destabilizing addictive tendencies.

A synergic effect occurs. In other words, due to the steroids there is an increased potential for using cocaine, and its symptoms in adolescents are consequently exacerbated. The danger of infertility, though still present when just exposed to the steroid, is more at risk when both drugs - performance enhancing and addictive alike - are mixed together. This mixture is what most contributes to a drop in fertility. Therefore teen female athletes who use performance enhancing drugs are at risk.  

blue syringe next to spilled bottle of white pills
Anabolic steroids such as nandrolone can cause serious issues for women who want to become pregnant later in life. The best solution is to become aware as soon as possible. Image taken from Very Well Health

To conclude, women who have used steroids or young teen females who are currently using steroids should be cautious. Take the preventative measures as a young adult to ensure the health of your fertility, and speak to a doctor for solutions or about any concerns you may have.


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