No medication, either prescription or over-the-counter, used by men has been proven to cause birth defects in their children. However, if you want to start a family, it's important to remember that some commonly used medications can affect sperm production, sometimes leading to reduced sperm count or sperm that can't move effectively. Some medications can also reduce a man's sexual desire or ability to function sexually.
If you're trying to conceive and your partner is taking cimetidine (used for ulcers), antidepressants, antibiotics (sulfa drugs, erythromycin, and tetracycline), calcium-channel blockers and propranolol (both used for high blood pressure), or colchicine and allopurinol (used to treat gout), he may need to talk to his doctor about a medication adjustment. A man's fertility should return to normal soon after he stops taking these medications. However, men with cancer who receive chemotherapy often develop permanent or long-term sterility. Men who must undergo chemotherapy should consider the option of storing sperm before they begin treatment. Fortunately, for most future fathers, a few lifestyle changes can make a big difference to their pregnant partner and unborn child.
Richard H. Schwarz, MD, obstetrical consultant to the March of Dimes, is vice chairman for clinical services in Maimonides Medical Center's department of obstetrics and gynecology and a professor of gynecology and obstetrics at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, both in Brooklyn.