The Startling Way This Common Diabetes Drug Can Affect Men's Fertility

If you have type 2 diabetes, chances are there are several methods your doctor has suggested to control it, including medication. While medication can be a life-saving method for managing diabetes, a new study is showing that men who take a commonly prescribed drug for the condition may experience side effects that could cause birth defects in their future offspring.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), type 2 diabetes typically develops over a long period and occurs when your body is not able properly to manage insulin to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. This can end up causing issues with your heart, eyesight, and kidneys.

One of the most commonly prescribed medications for diabetes is metformin, which helps to balance blood sugar levels by decreasing the amount of sugar your body produces and absorbs while also helping your system become more sensitive to insulin, according to Healthline.

But a new study is highlighting the health consequences of using metformin, including their future male offspring.

Metformin may cause birth defects

A 2022 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal has found that metformin may have startling side effects for men who used the drug before conceiving their child. The study examined the health records of approximately 1 million children born in Denmark whose mothers did not have a history of diabetes. Records also included medications prescribed to the parents of these children, per WebMD.

According to WebMD, about 36,000 children who were exposed to the drug via their father had one or more major birth defects. It was determined that the risk was greatest for fathers who filled their metformin prescriptions 3 months prior to conception when production of the fertilizing sperm takes place. While female offspring were not affected, male children who were exposed to the drug were 3.4 times more likely to have developed birth defects, mostly in the urinary tract and genitals.

While these results may be alarming, men looking to conceive a child shouldn't necessarily throw their metformin prescriptions away until there is more research gathered on the topic. But due to the popularity of this medication as well as the potentially devastating consequences associated with it, reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist Germaine Buck Louis highlighted the necessity of future research in a statement reported by WebMD. He explained, "Given the prevalence of metformin use as first-line therapy for type 2 diabetes, corroboration of these findings is urgently needed."