‘COVID affects sexual health and fertility’

New Delhi, Aug 17 (FN Bureau) COVID-19 affects sexual health and fertility directly (by eliminating the distance between individuals and saliva exchange and also affecting the reproductive system) or indirectly (refusing the sexual intercourse and reducing fertility) and has consequences for couples and society said Dr Naresh Purohit, Visiting Professor at the Kolkata based West Bengal University of Health Sciences (WBUHS), School of Public Health. Speaking to UNl here on Monday Executive Member of the Indian Society of Sexual Medicine, Dr Purohit after addressing a webinar on Covid and Reproductive Health organised by the North Bengal Medical College, Jalpaiguri averred that COVID-19 causes severe physiologic and psychological stress, which leads to lower testosterone levels and increased release of stress hormones. While testosterone levels should return to normal after the illness subsides, loss of testosterone might lead to fibrosis of the penile tissue, which is a more difficult and less reversible condition to treat.

Dr Purohit pointed that there is also evidence to suggest that the coronavirus has an impact on the testicles. The virus enters cells with the help of a protein that is prevalent in the testicles. The testicles are where the majority of testosterone is made in men, and so COVID-19 may cause decreased testosterone levels in the body. “Lower testosterone levels can contribute to erectile dysfunction, as well as decreased energy, libido and muscle mass. Lower testosterone levels also could exacerbate the body’s inflammatory response, causing heightened damage to the blood vessels,” added he Acclaimed Epidemiologist Dr Purohit stated that the pandemic itself has been the cause of erectile dysfunction(ED) in many cases. For several individuals, 2020-21 has been fraught with financial struggles, the grief of losing loved ones, living in close quarters with large families, giving rise to conflict, and facing intimacy issues or loneliness. All these factors can be stressors that lead to erectile dysfunction.

Therefore, addressing the mental health aspect of this sexual issue is very necessary. “ The sex lives of young people, especially those in their 20s and 30s, have been worst hit during this pandemic surge. The ones who are single do not have a social life anymore, and therefore, have no new sexual partners or regular sex life (which they had before the pandemic). And, those who are married are tied to their computers due to work from home rules, so they do not know how to segregate time and spend good time with family. There is also so much uncertainty around pregnancy during COVID. Some men are too scared that if their wives conceive during this time, they would have to go to hospitals and be exposed to the virus and has, therefore, refrained from sexual activities “ he explained. However, despite many experiencing ED during this pandemic, not everyone is forthcoming to address the issue. In Indian society, where a man’s potency is often linked to his power, men are often hesitant to discuss or seek help for their sexual health issues. “Erectile dysfunction can also go unaddressed in many cases, which will only lead to further conflict and frustration.

Therefore, they should be encouraged to reach out for medical help, especially if they had gone through a life-challenging disease like COVID, “pointed noted. Reproductive Health Expert Dr Purohit “Erectile dysfunction is also higher among those with comorbidities like diabetes and hypertension, which are high stressors for COVID-19 too. If we can manage these comorbidities, we see that the patient’s erectile dysfunction can also be managed. There is also supportive medication that can be taken before sexual activity, a change in the lifestyle will also help manage erection issues. Bonding with the partner, a positive frame of mind also contributes greatly.” he added. Other Experts in the webinar pointed that the stress of this pandemic is also likely to affect the fertility of men. Most patients are popping so many pills during this time. And, in many cases, they are self-medicating out of fear than need. This constant pill-popping is also likely to hurt men’s fertility.