Can Your Laptop Cause Male Infertility?

Do you sit with your computer on your lap? You might want to alter your laptop habits. A small research project led by Yefim Sheynkin, MD, FACS, at the State University of New York suggests that the heat from your laptop can elevate the temperature of your scrotum by up to 2.8 degrees. This might seem minuscule and unimportant but, if you consider the fact that there is a demonstrated link between high testicular temperature and infertility, you can see how this might be problematic.

Man on couch using laptop
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Keep Your Laptop Off Your Lap to Protect Fertility

The research team at SUNY, cognizant of this possible connection between scrotal temperature elevation and male infertility, tested whether or not laptops have a significant effect on the performance and quality of sperm. In addition, they sought out solutions for those who like to work with their computers on their laps. In the end, they found that laptops do, indeed, raise the temperature down below. They also concluded that lap pads do not protect against this temperature elevation, but that seeking out alternative sitting positions (such as sitting with the legs slightly apart) or limiting the length of your laptop usage could be effective.

If you have been struggling with infertility, this research may be of interest. Men whose sperm quality is shown to be low are often told to try cooling the temperature of their scrotum by wearing looser pants and underwear, and by avoiding hot baths and saunas. And the study team headed by Sheynkin has, as a result, suggested that heavy laptop use over a number of years "may cause irreversible or partially reversible changes in male reproductive function."

Then again, this isn't the last word on the possible connection between laptop usage and male infertility. Fertility expert Steven J. Sondheimer, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania reacted to Sheynkin's results with a rebuttal, insisting that "it is not clear that it [the warming effect] is clinically important." Further research is necessary before knowing for certain that such a connection exists.

However, the heat from your laptop might not be the only issue. Researchers from Argentina have demonstrated that semen samples exposed to Wi-Fi show increased DNA damage and decreased sperm movement. This could be important since sperm DNA quality and movement are critical factors for successful pregnancy.

Consistent heat from any source—not just a laptop—could be a contributing factor in male infertility. Tight pants or underwear, frequent hot baths or saunas, and overweight or obesity can also raise scrotal temperatures. All are best avoided if you and your partner are trying to conceive.

Steps to Take to Preserve Fertility

If you aren't having success with conception, it can be helpful to consider anything that might have an adverse effect on sperm performance. Limiting the time your laptop is in your lap is easy to do. In addition, if you and your partner have true concerns about infertility, be sure that both of you undergo the tests considered necessary to pinpoint the problem. Both you and your partner may need an evaluation. For men, a urologist (or male reproductive specialist) may order testosterone (and other hormones) and a semen analysis. Your partner's doctor (Ob/Gyn) or reproductive endocrinologist) may also recommend she get hormone testing, an ultrasound, and a hysterosalpingogram.

Be sure to find a urologist who is responsive, and also proactive about developing an action plan and working with you to combat any problems they find.

In the end, infertility can be caused by any number of things, not all of them easily diagnosable.

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  4. Mayo Clinic. Male Infertility - Symptoms and Causes.

  5. Urology Care Foundation. Male Infertility.

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