Does laptop usage and other behaviors negatively affect male fertility? Let’s explore.
A study published in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility (ASRM) demonstrated a negative effect of Wi-Fi radiofrequency exposure on sperm samples. In other words, the study appeared to show that computer usage could be contributing to fertility challenges.
For this reason, the study was picked up broadly by mainstream media. Perhaps more important than the actual study itself is the attention it brought to male fertility issues. Did you know that 30-40% of fertility problems are due to male sub-fertility or infertility?
Can Computer Usage Damage Sperm?
First, let’s break down the study and its findings. Twenty-nine men provided semen samples that were washed and examined for motility and DNA fragmentation. The samples were subsequently placed underneath a laptop receiving a Wi-Fi signal for four hours.
There was also a control group of samples that were not exposed to a Wi-Fi signal. Both sperm samples were evaluated; the investigators noted a significant decrease in motility of the sperm and DNA fragmentation in sperm samples. The investigators concluded that: keeping a laptop connected wirelessly to the internet in the lap or near the testes may result in decreased male fertility. (Avendaño, Conrado, et al; , Use of laptop computers connected to the internet through Wi-Fi decreases human sperm motility and increases sperm DNA fragmentation, Fertility and Sterility.)
Here is the weak point of the study: it was conducted in the laboratory only and not on real men. The participants were not tested with laptops on their laps; semen samples were tested 3 centimeters below a laptop actively receiving Wi-Fi signals. In this artificial environment, the laptop computer was continually downloading or uploading information to maximize Wi-Fi exposure.
In addition, in real life when a man is using a laptop the sperm are within the body and within the testes; so it is difficult to quantify how much radiation exposure the sperm would actually receive.
Regardless, it is plausible that direct exposure to electromagnetic radiation could affect sperm motility and quality, as this study seems to indicate. More clinical research is needed on the effects of computer usage on sperm quality and male fertility, but it this brings us to an important point: male fertility really matters.
For instance, if you are a gay male couple pursuing surrogacy, and both partners are planning to biologically participate in the creation of embryos, optimizing your health prior to starting this process can make a big impact. Let’s talk about what impacts male fertility most.
What Impacts Male Fertility?
Beyond computer usage, there are many factors that affect male fertility. These include:
– Prescription drugs
– Environmental toxins
– Vitamin deficiencies
When I meet with patients, we discuss each partner’s lifestyle choices. Studies have repeatedly shown the negative impact of excessive drinking and drug usage on male fertility. And there are many studies that demonstrate the negative effect of smoking on sperm count – whether the substance is tobacco or marijuana.
Certain job situations also put a man’s sperm count at risk; for example, exposure to chemical fumes from petroleum products and heavy metals has been shown to negatively affect sperm counts.
How to Optimize Preconception Health
As a reproductive endocrinologist, I always encourage my patients to optimize their health and lifestyle choices during the important 90-day preconception window. This can include:
– Reducing alcohol intake
– Quitting smoking
– Avoiding exposure to environmental risk factors
– Trying to get to an ideal weight
While the fertility field has made incredible strides to scientifically enhance the chances of a successful pregnancy, there are some important steps you can take to live a healthier lifestyle and improve preconception health as a gay dad-to-be.
As a closing note: If you spend more than a few hours with a WiFi-connected laptop on your lap or your cell phone in your front pocket and are trying to optimize your fertility, it can’t hurt to be mindful about taking breaks, creating barriers or setting your devices down away from your body to reduce any potential negative impacts.
This article was first published on Gay Parents To Be.