Home Health & Food Tight underwear, laptop can reduce sperm quality- Experts warn 

Tight underwear, laptop can reduce sperm quality- Experts warn 

by James Davies

Anthony Ademiluyi

Fertility experts have warned that placing a laptop on the thigh or wearing tight-fitting underwear may reduce sperm quality.

The experts noted that heat from a laptop can raise the temperature around the testicle region, adding that it could be very dangerous as it can affect the production of sperm

According to United Kingdom’s National Health Service, low sperm count, also called oligozoospermia, is when a man has fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen.

The World Health Organisation in a report revealed that around 17.5 per cent of the adult population, which is roughly one in six worldwide experience infertility.

The global health body’s report shows limited variation in the prevalence of infertility between regions.

According to the report, the rates are comparable for high, middle-and low-income countries, indicating that it is a major health challenge globally.

WHO further noted that lifetime prevalence was 17.8% in high-income countries and 16.5% in low- and middle-income countries.

The fertility experts while speaking exclusively with PUNCH Healthwise said couples who engage in unprotected sexual intercourse for over a year without any pregnancy should seek immediate medical assistance.

The duo, a Consultant Urologist at Federal Medical Centre, Keffi, Nassarawa State, Dr. Emma Oyibo, and a Consultant Gynaecologist at Federal Teaching Hospital, Katsina, Dr. Anas Rabiu Funtua, harped on the importance of early diagnosis for poor sperm quality, noting that it can help patients to get the required, adequate treatment.

Dr. Funtua explained that temperature affects sperm storage and that any distortion may lead to a reduction in its quality.

He noted that sperm quality is similar to living cells and is determined by a variety of factors in addition to their quantity.

He further said qualitative and quantitative analysis is needed before sperm can be considered complete or viable.

He said, “Genetic factors may lead to less qualitative sperm. There are certain temperatures that also affect their storage. In this regard, if anything distorts their temperature, their quality will reduce.

“Similarly, their distribution, which may be an antibody or the channel where they follow can lead to abnormal sperm quality or quantity, or even both

“For those with genetic problems, there’s only little that can be done to improve the quality of their sperm. However, they have other options such as the sperm being harvested and joined with an egg to form babies. God deliberately put the testicles outside to avoid so much temperature.

“It is necessary to take care of the testicles. Such thing as wearing tight boxers and putting laptops on the laps increases the temperature of the testicles. Smoking, alcohol intake, and taking illicit drugs affect sperm quality & quantity. Viral infections and the use of some drugs without a doctor’s prescription also affect sperm quality and quantity.”

In his submission, Dr. Oyibo said that poor semen quality is based on a set of parameters agreed upon by a consensus of practitioners with the most reliable being the WHO Manual of Seminal Analysis.

He said the parameters include semen volume, total sperm number, total motility, vitality, and normal forms.

He, however, stressed that sperm is considered to be low when it fails to meet up with the WHO’s parameters.

“The things that could predispose a man to low sperm quality are congenital (during development) and acquired (after birth).

“Congenital include cryptorchidism (undescended testis), testicular dysgenesis and congenital absence of the vas deferens, which is one of the main causes of obstructive azoospermia, responsible for numerous cases of male infertility. The acquired are urogenital infections and varicocele.

“Others are endocrine; genetics, immunology, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, cancer, irradiation, obesity, smoking, drugs, and lastly some have no known reasons (Idiopathic).”

Dr. Oyibo said that it was possible for a man with a low sperm quality to still be fertile and get a woman pregnant.

“It depends on the level of the quality of the parameters, the extent of the damage, and if the spouse is considered normal, then it can be either natural or assisted reproduction.

“Some are treated while some present late when not much can be done. The treatment is based on the incriminating factor and the associated hormonal balance. Some are surgically corrected while others may need assisted reproduction,” he explained.

A study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health offers one of the most comprehensive examinations to date into this long-running debate.

The researchers found that men who wear boxers do indeed have better sperm counts and healthier reproductive hormone levels than their tight underwear counterparts.

The research recruited 656 men, taking both sperm and blood samples alongside a self-reported questionnaire covering underwear choice, physical activity frequency, and other contributing factors, such as whether they regularly take hot baths.

The results’ statistically significant findings showed that men who primarily wear boxers displayed 25 per cent higher sperm concentration and 17 per cent higher total sperm count.

The research also examined the men’s blood samples for levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Interestingly, men wearing tighter underwear and displaying lower sperm counts were found to have higher levels of FSH in their blood.

“This particular hormone is known to be produced in the brain to stimulate sperm production and the researchers suggest that increased FSH levels are a sign that the body is trying to compensate for decreased sperm counts,” the researchers stated.

In another study published in the Human Reproduction Update  Open Access, the researchers excluded studies that featured only men who were being evaluated for infertility, those that selected only men who had normal sperm counts, and those whose study participants were selected based on genital abnormalities or diseases.

The researchers included only studies published in English, those with 10 or more men, and those with participants whose sperm was collected in a typical way and counted using a device called a hemocytometer.

In the end, just 38 studies met their criteria. They added these to studies included in their previous review and extracted their data, which was fed into models.

Overall, the researchers determined that sperm counts fell by slightly more than 1% per year between 1973 and 2018. The study concluded that globally, the average sperm count had fallen 52% by 2018.

When the study researchers restricted their analysis to certain years, they found that the decline in sperm counts seemed to be accelerating, from an average of 1.16% per year after 1973 to 2.64% per year after 2020.

In another study published in AOGS Journal, 56% of infertile couples in developed countries seek medically assisted reproductive technology treatment to conceive and male factor infertility was the main or contributing cause in around 40% of all cases.

Male factor infertility is a widespread international problem. In Denmark, approximately one in ten children are born after fertility treatment, including 5% after assisted reproductive technology treatment.


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