Fever’s Fertile Mystery: Revealing the connection

Fever’s Fertile Mystery: Revealing the connection

In earlier articles, we have become aware of how body heat can affect the quality of sperm – by taking hot water baths or saunas, wearing too tight underwear or exposure to industrial radiation (keeping laptops on thighs or mobile phones in waist pockets). However, have we ever thought about how body temperature in the form of high fever could also have a detrimental effect on sperm quality?

Studies have shown that an increase in body temperature with a fever can take its toll on:

  • Quantity of sperm
  • Motility – movement
  • Morphology – size and shape
  • DNA – causing fragmentation (breaking the DNA strands).

For good sperm production, the temperature of the testes should be a little lower than the rest of the body. The testes are located in the scrotum, which can move the testes so that the temperature remains balanced. When warm, the testes are kept further away from the body. Alternatively, when cold, the testes are moved closer. However, if the temperature in the testes is hampered, which can happen when the male has a high fever, the sperm production is affected with decreased count, morphology and motility – and may even stop for a short time.

Research has shown that a fever of 101 or 102 degrees for 3 or more days can temporarily affect sperm production, for a period of up to six months. For the female, especially if the high grade fever/flu comes on early in the pregnancy, there may be birth defects. Hence, if the male partner has had high fever or an illness accompanied by high fever, he should first try and detoxify to help the body recover and boost good sperm production. A good diet, healthy lifestyle, exercise, breathing and meditation can assist with this.

It takes about 74 days for a male to produce new sperm. An average of 50 – 60 days is needed for the sperm to develop in the testicles. Then, for the sperm to mature in the epididymis, another 14 days or so is required. Though the time frame for individuals can vary, regeneration of sperm takes about 2-3 months even after a fever. So, even though the person has recovered from the fever, the sperm which is ejaculated has been produced 2 – 3 months earlier. This should be noted, reported to the physician and taken into account especially when a semen analysis is required.

Also, the process of sperm production is continuous and cycles are constantly rotating. As mentioned above, it takes about 74 days or more for a cycle to be completed. The stage when sperm production is most affected by fever is that which occurs about 30 – 60 days prior to ejaculation. On the other hand, since the cycle is continuous, usually about 6 weeks after the fever, the result should stabilise. That is why it is recommended that a semen analysis is performed 6 weeks or more after a person has had fever. A repeat test to confirm the semen analysis can be done after 5 or 6 weeks or even 3 months – this can be discussed with the specialist.

The sperm DNA fragmentation index (DFI) shows the strength of the DNA, any damage to the same and the genetic information, which can lead to detection of sperm damage. One of the causes of DNA fragmentation is due to increase in body temperature (as in a fever) which causes oxidative stress. Increase in oxidative stress due to higher testicular temperature can result in reduction in sperm quality by DNA fragmentation. A study done by Dr Don Evenson and colleagues in 2000 demonstrated this impact by measuring the SDF of a patient over a period of 66 days after an episode of high fever. The patient’s DFI peaked at around day 30 after the fever and finally returned to normal after 66 days.

At Andrology Center, apart from the standard semen analysis test, we provide an alternative option called the DFI (sperm DNA fragmentation) test. This test employs the SCSA (sperm chromatin structure assay) method, which is considered an advanced approach. We take pride in being the exclusive authorised laboratory in India to perform this genuine test. Our state-of-the-art equipment and modern technology ensure that the results obtained are highly accurate. This, in turn, helps the specialist and couple to decide on the best treatment method.

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