- Clomid is most commonly known as a medication used to treat infertility in women, but it can also treat infertility in men.
- In men, Clomid tells the brain to produce hormones that trigger sperm and testosterone production.
- For men with low testosterone who are interested in starting a family, Clomid can treat symptoms while preserving fertility.
Most people who have heard of Clomid associate the medication with one specific use: to induce ovulation in women who are experiencing infertility. And while that’s the most common reason why Clomid is prescribed, it’s not the only one. Clomid can also be prescribed for “off-label” use to treat infertility in men — specifically in men who are experiencing low testosterone levels or low T.
Here’s everything you need to know about Clomid for men.
What Is Low Testosterone?
Testosterone is the main male sex hormone that plays a major role in regulating sex drive, your body’s ability to store and burn fat, the production of red blood cells, and even your mood. It’s also integral to fertility. Your body needs testosterone to produce sperm.
As men age, their testosterone naturally drops, about 1 percent per year after the age of 35. However, if your testosterone levels continue to dip at a higher rate than this normal decline, it’s a sign of a condition called hypogonadism, where the testes don’t produce enough testosterone.
About 6.1 million couples in the United States experience infertility, and in about half of those cases, the infertility is a result of low sperm production, abnormal sperm function, or other factors related to the male partner.
Identifying and Treating Low T
If you have low T, you’ll start to notice a host of symptoms, including a decline in your sex drive, a lack of energy, and a loss of muscle mass. You may also struggle to get your partner pregnant if you’re trying to conceive.
The only way to truly know if your testosterone levels are low is to test your hormone levels. Hone has an at-home analysis that provides a definitive look at your hormones. If the test shows that you have low T, you can consult with a doctor about what the results mean. (Here are some tips on talking to your doctor about low T).
Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is often prescribed for men with low T. But if you’re thinking about starting a family, it may not be the right option for you. TRT can lead to a decrease in sperm count because when your brain registers an influx of testosterone, it sends a signal to the pituitary gland to decrease a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which triggers sperm production.
“If you’re thinking about starting a family in the new future, I would recommend against the use of TRT,” says urologist Joshua Calvert, M.D. “In fact, In the 1990s the World Health Organization tested testosterone as a male birth control and found that it was close to 97 percent effective.”
Young healthy men who are on testosterone will likely develop a return of healthy sperm to the ejaculate when they stop the testosterone, says Calvert, but there are no guarantees that it will return, or how long it may take to do so.
Fortunately, that doesn’t mean that you have to live with symptoms of low T if you want to have children. Clomid is often a good option for treating low T while preserving fertility.
What is Clomid?
Clomid is the brand name for a medication called clomiphene citrate (another brand name for this medication is Serophene). It’s an oral tablet that belongs to a class of medications called ovulatory stimulants, and in women, it works similarly to estrogen, a female hormone that causes the ovaries to develop and release eggs (aka ovulation).
But studies have shown that Clomid may also help address fertility issues in men who are experiencing hypogonadism.
Male hypogonadism is typically characterized by low testosterone, which can occur for a variety of reasons including age, medications, chronic health conditions, and more.
If you have symptoms of low T, order Hone’s at-home test today. If your T levels are low, you can speak to a physician about treatment options, including Clomid.
How Does Clomid Work?
Some women take Clomid as part of fertility treatment like in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI), but the medication can also be taken on its own. Its main purpose is to stimulate specific parts of the brain (the hypothalamus and pituitary gland) to increase levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which are important in ovulation.
In men, LH stimulates Leydig cells in the testicles to produce testosterone. FSH stimulates Sertoli cells to assist in sperm development.
“Clomid is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM),” explains Amin Herati, M.D., assistant professor of urology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Director of Male Infertility and Men’s Health for the Brady Urological Institute. While estrogen is the primary female sex hormone, men need it too, in small amounts. Extra estrogens can trigger your body to produce less testosterone.
Clomid works on your estrogen receptors—proteins that bind to estrogen in the blood—to make your brain think there’s a lack of testosterone in your system, says Herati. As a result, your body produces more FSH and luteinizing hormone (LH), which trigger sperm and testosterone production. In addition to boosting sperm production through this mechanism, Clomid may also help boost libido and alleviate erectile dysfunction (2) in some men since these issues can sometimes be rooted in low testosterone.
Clomid is often prescribed for men who have low T and are experiencing infertility, says Herati. “It can also be taken as an oral therapy option for men with low testosterone who want to preserve their fertility potential.”
While optimal dosing of Clomid for men has not been established, one review recommended(3) patients start with a dose of 25 mg three days per week and then slowly adjust up to 50 mg if needed.
Clomid can help boost libido and alleviate erectile dysfunction.
What Are The Side Effects Of Clomid For Men?
Like all medications, Clomid does carry a risk of side effects, and some research has shown what kind of side effects are more likely for men, specifically. While one 2019 study (4) found Clomid to generally be “safe and effective with few side effects when used as long-term treatment of hypogonadism,” there were some potential negative effects including mood changes, blurry vision, and breast tenderness.
“Side effects can occur with this medication among men who take it,” Herati says. “Headaches, nausea, bloating, mood swings, and diminished sex drive can occur.
Rarely, sperm counts can paradoxically decrease with Clomid, which can be reversed by changing Clomid to another type of estrogen blocker, such as tamoxifen.
Men who want to take this medication should have a full hormone panel drawn, inclusive of testosterone, LH, and FSH. If the LH and FSH are already elevated, then Clomid would be less likely to be helpful.”
How Well Does Clomid Work for Increasing Fertility?
The most recent meta-analysis (5) on selective estrogen receptor modulators like Clomid significantly increase sperm concentration, total sperm count, and LH, FSH, and total testosterone levels.
A 2016 review (6) suggests that the men most likely to reap the benefits of Clomid are those who have unexplained infertility and normal to below-average sperm motility and shape. Experts believe men in this camp could potentially use Clomid to achieve a sperm count that would improve their success rates using artificial insemination.
Other Treatments For Male Infertility
For men who choose to take another route to treat infertility or increase their testosterone, there are alternatives to Clomid.
It’s important to work closely with your doctor as the type of treatment is largely dependent on the individual, the cause of infertility, and other factors. For example, some men might need surgery to correct a physical cause of infertility (such as a varicocele, an enlargement of the veins within the scrotum). In other cases, medications like antibiotics may help treat infections that impair fertility.
Low testosterone isn’t the only cause of infertility in men there are so many causes ranging in severity from infection to tumors that the only reliable way to diagnose the issue and seek appropriate treatment is to work with a trained medical professional to find a treatment that’s most likely to be effective, safe, and sustainable.
The Bottom Line