Can your phone be one of the causes of male infertility?


Can your phone be one of the causes of male infertility?

One feels lost if his/her mobile phone is out of reach. Dependability on the tiny gadget has become so crucial that, these days, one cannot imagine how one can live without a smartphone! However, have you ever thought of the possible side effects of having your mobile phone close to, or within reach of your body?

Research has been conducted and amongst the various factors being affected by close proximity of a cell phone to the body is, surprisingly, male fertility.

Of course, men are aware that they should avoid heat near the genital area, as excess heat can have a negative impact on sperm production. In fact this is exactly why the testicles (sites of sperm production) are located outside the body to ensure optimal temperature maintenance). The generation of this heat could be from use of laptops, mobile phones, i-pads or other IT gadgets which rest on the groin area or in pockets near it. Temperature plays a part in sperm production as it is sensitive to changes in temperature and requires 2-4 degrees lower than body temperature to occur. Sperm cells die if exposed to excess heat. Continuous heat exposure can result in lower sperm production or cause abnormally shaped sperm cells or Sperm DNA damage which could result in infertility.

However, there is another side effect. According to a study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, mobile phones can disrupt sleep, which can also affect fertility. The study was conducted on men ranging from 21 to 59 years. Regardless of age, it was reported that those participants who continuously used their phones just before going to sleep did not obtain the best quality or quantity of sleep. On the contrary, those who did not use their phones or other gadgets just before bedtime achieved longer periods and better quality of sleep. Furthermore, their sperm count was higher and had greater motility.

Another study showed the effect of radiation from the phone on healthy male sperm and fertility. There was a connection between exposure to light from the gadgets at night and poor sperm quality. It was found that using phones and IT gadgets in the late evenings and at night caused reduction in sperm concentration, sperm motility and sperm progressive motility. The more exposure to the SWL (short-wavelength light) emitted resulted in a higher percentage of the Immotile sperm.

Besides the effect of heat, a large amount of EMR (electromagnetic radiation) could harm the male reproductive system by nonthermal methods. It has been recorded that human sperm exposed to EMR from mobile phones had resulted in structural anomalies, reduced motility, increased oxidative stress caused by excess production of ROS (reactive oxygen species) and resulted in sperm DNA damage. Long term submission to phone EMR may also cause reduction in levels of serum testosterone. All these could affect male fertility. However, these effects seem to be linked with the time span that the mobile phone or gadgets have been used.

The best way to counteract these negative effects is to avoid keeping mobile phones in trouser pockets for a long length of time. Use of hand-free gadgets that decrease contact of the phones with the body is another option. Limiting the use of laptops kept on the thighs or near the groin area could also help.

There is no single specific cause for male infertility but factors such as the above, lifestyle choices, injuries, illness etc all contribute to it. By taking care of the “rectifiable” factors, including limiting use of EMF emitting devices, reducing weight, exercising in moderation, practicing yoga and meditation, cutting out smoking and alcohol, you can help with increasing sperm quantity and quality and, in turn, reduce chances of infertility.

To test the quality of sperm, a semen analysis can be conducted. At our laboratory, Andrology Center, we offer this test as well as sperm DFI (sperm DNA fragmentation index) using the best technology which produces accurate results. If required, based on these test results, guidance can be sought from a Fertility Specialist.

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