Can electrical devices affect male fertility?

Might your smartphone be bad for your sperm?
06 November 2018


Using an iPhone



Can electrical devices affect male fertility?


Paul asked whether electrical devices can reduce fertility, and whether boxers are bad for your sperm. Chris Smith put this question to Bourn Hall clinic fertility nurse, Laura Carter-Penman...

Laura - Well the plain answer is yes, they can affect. There’s minimal research about, sort of, mobile phones and things like that, clearly we don’t want to be putting a mobile phone on somebody’s testicles for a month to see the effect of the sperm on it. 

Chris - But aren’t we effectively doing that, Laura? If you asked most men where do you keep your mobile, it’s in their pocket, and where’s their pocket? Right next to their nether regions.

Laura - Exactly. So we would be recommending that you put it in your top shirt pocket if you have one, or your back pocket, or you know you see these people - you know, you’ve got your runners out there where they have theirs strapped onto their arms.

Laura - The other thing that we obviously like to do: we’re of a generation of Netflix watchers and what have you. You know, lay in bed with your laptop and where do you put it? Slap bang on your groin, you know that’s about the worst place that you can have it. It’s all to do with heat and actually the reason the testicles hang outside the body is because sperm likes to sit at about 35 degrees where your body is about 37 degrees. So the increase in heat has a real impact on sperm production. So we want to keep the testicles cool.

Chris - Has anyone actually done the study on the laptop effect, or the warm testes effect?

Laura - There’s the warm testes effect. There has been a lot of research done on that.

Chris - Who’s at risk?

Laura - Cyclists, particularly, with their nice tight lycra. It’s not looking good for you Tim!

Tim - No, not only do I have my phone in my pocket, I cycled to the studio!

Laura - Yup!

Chris - Danni?

Danni - Can I just, it’s just a bit embarrassing; my husband is Dutch and we’ve been together for 10 years. And when my dad first met him one of the first things that he said to him was, you know, ‘What’s your bicycle seat like? Is it soft enough?’ And he said well, okay!

Laura - Well they’ve said it’s not so much about the damage, it's all to do with the wearing of the lycra, and the heat that's generated much more so than the actual damage of the cycling. There's some evidence to that, but most of it's about the fact that you wear nice cosseting shorts.

Danni - Oh he doesn’t wear lycra, it's all right then!

Laura - See he needs to be letting it all hang free!

Chris - Anatomically there are nerves that run along the bit of your body that then sits down hard on the bicycle seat aren't there? And there was a suggestion that by sitting down hard on the bicycle seat  you can damage those nerves and this may affect your function. Is that not such a consideration then?

Laura - Not so much of a consideration as the heat, but it is still a consideration; as is when patients have to have surgery that involves that kind of area. Then obviously what we would usually recommend is some kind of semen preservation. Sperm preservation, because obviously it can lead to erectile dysfunction which is more the issue than the sperm.

Chris - What about hot baths and things like that? Because, you know, people love a good soak in the tub don't they. Does that have a consequence?

Laura -  As long as you are probably not soaking for hours on end, you know, a hot bath now and again is not going to do you too much damage. But obviously if you are actively trying for a family we would be recommending -

Chris - Cold showers!

Laura -  Showers! Cold showers!

Chris - But a cold shower could have the opposite effect, couldn’t it?! That’s supposed to cool you right down!

Laura - No, no, definitely not. Get in there together!

Chris - You heard it here first on The Naked Scientists! So Tim, hot baths for you Tim, then, is it or...?

Tim - I will be taking a cold shower as soon as I get home!

Chris - So basically the bottom line is: laptop, not on your lap then?

Laura - Yeah, laptop not on your lap, on a desk.

Chris - Mobile phone not in your pocket?

Laura - Mobile phone not in your pocket. Nice, cool, cotton boxer shorts and cooler showers, and not warm baths.


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