Madeline Purdue, USA TODAY, 2 August 2017
SAN FRANCISCO — Could technology make you infertile? The problem may be resting on your lap.
A study published last week shows sperm counts in western men have been falling for the last 40 years. There are some theories about why it's happening — smoking, obesity and stress among the culprits — but scientists do not have a definitive answer.
The study cites another study from 2015 that shows an increase in scrotal temperature can also cause sperm to be abnormal in quantity and quality. When the scrotum heats up, the sperm that is produced can take on a different shape that is not as effective at penetrating the egg, lowering the chances of becoming pregnant.
There are multiple factors that could cause the scrotum to heat up, such as hot tubs or tight clothing, but one that has created some discussion is laptop use.
Laptop computers are designed to be easily portable and used comfortably in any situation, particularly on the lap. However, if a male uses a laptop on his lap too frequently, it is possible that his scrotum's temperature will increase.
Dr. Yefim Sheynkin, an associate professor of urology at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, published a study in 2005 that proved laptop use can cause the scrotum's temperature to rise. It is not only about using the laptop on the lap, but the position the body is in when using the laptop.
“We did find that scrotal temperature increased, and it increased significantly, in the men using laptop computers in the laptop position," Dr. Sheynkin told USA TODAY. "The laptop computer potentially may impact fertility by increasing scrotal temperature.”
The laptop position is sitting with the legs closed with the laptop directly on the lap, trapping the heat produced in the groin area.
However, while it has been proven that increased scrotum temperature can impact the quality and number of sperm, it has not been definitively proven that laptop use leads to infertility in men.
"What the paper actually said was there was an increase of temperature in the groin area of the men that had the laptops on their laps," said Dr. Ajay Nangia, director of andrology at the University of Kansas Health System. "All they did was suggest that it could affect sperm count, meaning there was no proof that the men that had the laptops on their laps actually had a decline in sperm count from before they did the study to after.”
Dr. Joshua Hurwitz, a partner at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut, said it is reasonable to assume the heat from the laptop can cause infertility, especially if a male uses it on his lap for an excessive amount of time.
Hurwitz recommends living a healthy lifestyle in order to avoid infertility. He said that a negative lifestyle on top of excessive laptop use can severely impact sperm.
“You should get up and walk around just for general health. No one should be gaming, no one should be coding for 12 hours a day,” said Hurwitz.
He also recommends using a laptop on a desk, but if that's not possible, to use a gel pad underneath the laptop because gel absorbs heat.
Sheynkin says there isn't a pad or accessory that can deter the effects of using a laptop because even with a pad underneath, the body position remains the same and still traps heat. He recommends decreasing laptop use as much as possible.
"The shorter the exposure is, the less potential impact from the laptop computer you may experience,” said Sheynkin.
Still Nangia remains skeptical that laptops can affect fertility, saying it could be possible, but it's a stretch. “Other studies need to be done,” he said.
Laptops do not pose the same threat to women's fertility as it does to men's. Female reproductive organs are inside their body and are protected by layers of skin, muscle and different organs.
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