Temperature and Semen Quality

It is common knowledge that a seminogram is one of the basic tests that couples who are having issues getting pregnant. In other words, the male partner’s semen needs to be analysed in order to check certain parameters such as the quality of spermatozoa in ejaculate, their motility, their morphology and so on. The aim is to determine if there is an abnormality in the quality of the semen that might explain the reproduction issue.

There are several reasons why semen quality can be poor: hormones, immunology, anatomical issues and also environmental factors such as exposure to toxins (pesticides, tobacco, drug abuse…) or frequent exposure to high temperatures.

With regards to the impact of temperature on sperm, it is no coincidence that a man’s testicles are positioned in the scrotum, anatomically separated from the abdomen. In fact, it is estimated that they are around 2 degrees lower in temperature than the rest of the body.

It has been documented that correct spermatozoa production (spermatogenesis) requires correct testicle temperature. If this temperature increases, semen quality can decrease and this can lead to the production of lower quality spermatozoa that may have diminished motility.

In certain cases when there has been an increase testicle temperature, for example when a man has swollen veins in his testicles (varicocele) leading to abnormal blood flow through the genitals or when testicles fail to descend from the scrotum (cryptorchidism), surgical solutions are available but semen quality is not always recuperated.

However, there are certain circumstances that lead to an increase in testicle temperature that can be avoided. Men should:

  1. Avoid taking hot baths and avoid using jacuzzis and saunas. Numerous studies have demonstrated that they alter semen quality although such abnormalities can be corrected some weeks later.
  2. Avoid doing certain sports that, when done for long period of time, can increase testicle temperature. For example, cycling.
  3. Avoid using very tight clothing, including underwear.
  4. Take into account other, more controversial, matters that include refraining from positioning laptop computers on the lower abdomen or positioning mobile phones near genitals (on belts or in pockets) since some studies show a trend of decreased semen quality in men who do so. Other studies, however, have not reached the same results.

Last of all, it should be pointed out that decreased semen quality due to fever is a one-off, transient situation and that, in this case, semen quality returns to normal as soon as the man recuperates his normal body temperature.

Dr Ana Fabregat, a pharmacist atInstituto Bernabeu.

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