Can Laptops Cause Male Infertility?

Men who use a laptop by propping it on their thighs may be putting their fertility at risk. Studies show exposure to heat and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) given off by computers can affect male reproductive organs and sperm quality.

This article explains what scientists have learned about the connection between laptop use and male infertility and ways to lower the risk.

Man on couch using laptop
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What Research Says About Laptops and Infertility

Scientists have studied two potential ways laptops might affect male fertility. When positioned on a man's lap or thighs, the heat generated by a laptop and the electromagnetic field that surrounds it may affect the ability of the testicles to produce sperm as well as the quality of the sperm itself.

Heat

In 2005, a small study from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook found the heat given off by a laptop could raise the temperature of the scrotum, the sac of skin that protects the testicles.

This is important because a key role of the scrotum is to keep the temperature of the testicles lower than the temperature of the body. The testicles are the organs that produce sperm. When the testicles are too warm, they can't produce as much sperm, and quality of that sperm is lower.

In the study, laptop heat raised the temperature of the scrotum by as much as 2.8 degrees Celsius. This may not sound like much, but it can be significant given the testicles function best at 1 to 2 degrees Celsius lower than body temperature.

Electromagnetic Fields

An electromagnetic field (EMF) is an area of invisible energy produced by a combination of electricity and magnetic forces. Sources of EMFs include microwave ovens and cell phones.

High frequency EMFs, such as those from X-rays, are known to increase the risk of cancer by altering the DNA (genetic material) of cells. This has caused concern about other potential effects of EMFs, including how they may affect the quality of sperm.

In one such study, scientists exposed semen to Wi-Fi, which is surrounded by low-frequency EMFs. They found the Wi-Fi both damaged the DNA of the sperm contained in the semen and made it less mobile. For sperm to be able to fertilize an egg, it must be able to move quickly and easily.

Other research has found exposure to Wi-Fi can cause harm to the testicles that in turn may:

  • Lower sperm count
  • Change the size and shape of sperm (morphology)
  • Alter sperm motility (the ability of sperm to swim in the right direction)
  • Damage the DNA of sperm
  • Cause fragments of chromosomes to break off (micronuclei formation)
  • Increase the likelihood of genetic mutations (changes) during cell division
  • Disrupt important enzymes and hormones

Impact on Fertility

The idea laptops may play a role in male infertility is controversial. Despite findings about how heat and EMFs affect the temperature of the testicles and the quality and quantity of sperm, more research is needed to prove there's a direct link between laptop use and male fertility.

That said, studies suggest the longer the testicles are exposed to a laptop and the closer the device is to the genitals, the higher the risk of damage to sperm and fertility. For these reasons, if you're a male who typically uses your laptop on your lap, there are several things you can do to help protect your fertility:

  • Don't cross your legs if you're sitting upright or cross your ankles if you're reclining: Keep your legs slightly apart.
  • Cut back on how often you place your laptop on your lap to use it.
  • Whenever you can, prop your laptop on a table or desk.

Other things you can do to protect your fertility include:

  • Wear loose pants and underwear.
  • Avoid hot baths and saunas.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

Summary

Research shows there's a possible link between male infertility and laptop use. Studies have found the heat from a laptop can raise the temperature of the testicles when propped on man's lap, which can affect the production of sperm. There also may be a link between the electromagnetic fields around a laptop that can affect the quality of sperm.

There is not yet scientific proof of a direct link between laptop use and male infertility. Even so, it can't hurt for men to cut back on the amount of time they use a laptop on their laps or thighs and to take other measures to protect their fertility.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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