The testicles are located in an ideal spot on a man’s body, external to the rest of the male reproductive system. Sperm, created inside these organs, need a cool environment for reproduction, and the temperature of the testes should be lower than a man’s core body temperature to function effectively.
Often our patients have questions about the effects of various heat sources on the male reproductive organs. For many, it can be confusing to separate the myths from the reality. But one thing is certain: don’t overheat your testicles!
Boxers or brief: does it make a difference?
A lot of men are surprised when their wives take a sudden interest in their underwear. But one of the ‘hottest’ questions on the minds of many is whether it is better for men to wear boxers or briefs while trying to conceive.
Wearing briefs, which are tighter than boxers, raises the temperature around the testicles, potentially lowering sperm production and count. However, some experts don’t feel the evidence is conclusive for making a wardrobe change. However, if a man decides to switch to boxers from briefs, it will take 10-12 weeks for new sperm to be produced.
Hot tubs and saunas
A three-year study in 2007 from the UCSF Department of Urology confirmed what many male reproductive specialists already suspected: men repeatedly exposed to the high temperatures of hot tubs and saunas were put at risk for lower sperm production, motility and male infertility. Saunas and steam rooms may be less damaging because the scrotum is not submerged in water.
The research also demonstrated, however, that the negative affects could be reversed in at least 50% of the men once they refrained from these habits.
Is modern technology wrecking havoc on male fertility?
When men place their laptops on their laps or put their cell phones in their pant pocket or on a belt, they expose their testicles to additional heat. Will the amount of heat generated, however, affect their sperm count and how long is exposure damaging?
Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook found that men who sat with laptops perched on their laps for an hour had an average increase in scrotal temperature of about 5 degrees Fahrenheit/2.7 degrees Celsius, well above the average of the one degree Celsius increase needed to affect the production of healthy sperm.
Laptop shields may mitigate some of the damage for a short time, but it is best to sit at a desk or table to be safe.
We also suggest that male patients exercise caution in how close they keep their cell phones to the scrotum. In 2014, researchers analyzed the findings of 10 studies examining cell phone exposure. They found that the sperm of men with exposure to electromagnetic radiation was less viable. So it is better to be safe than sorry and keep your cell phone in another location. How about a man purse on your holiday shopping list?
Better cool than overcooked
If couples are concerned about these lifestyle habits, it is fairly simple and inexpensive to switch underwear, refrain from hot tub or sauna use and keep your cell phone and lap top away from your testicles. Protect nature’s jewels in a cool environment.