Laptop lap dance dangerous to sperm

November 17, 2010Carole 4 Comments »

You may want to buy your dear husband a lap desk for his laptop PC or Mac to protect his sperm from overheating. In a new study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, use of a laptop computer directly on the lap was associated with scrotal hyperthermia or an elevation of scrotal temperature of between 1.4-2.3 degrees Celsius.

How much of a rise in temperature can be tolerated before sperm production is negatively affected? According to the study author, Dr. Yefim Sheynkin, M.D., from the Department of Urology, SUNY at Stony Brook, an increase in temperature of only one degree Celsius has been associated with decreased sperm production in some research studies. An increase in heat of more than 1C occurred within 11 minutes if the subject was sitting with legs close together. Use of a lap pad did not seem to provide significant protection from overheating. Elevated lap desks were not evaluated.  If the subject sat with knees wide apart, the increase in temperature was delayed for 30 minutes, but was still observed.

At first blush, the placement of the testis literally outside the body may seem like a vulnerable place to put the family jewels. It is, but sperm production apparently works best at the slightly lower temperature found in the scrotum. Normal scrotal temperature is around 35-36C or about 1-2 degrees cooler than the normal internal body temperature of 37C. Two conditions associated with problems in sperm production and infertility related to scrotal overheating are cryptorchidism and varicocele.

Cryptorchidism is a fancy word for the condition in which one or both of the testis do not descend into the scrotum before birth but remain in the abdominal cavity. Sometimes newborns are born with this condition but if it doesn’t correct itself on its own within a few months, medical intervention may be necessary to bring the testicle(s) down into the scrotum.

The presence of one or more enlarged scrotal veins called varicoceles are also associated with lower sperm counts. An estimated 40% of men suffering from infertility have varicoceles. Varicoceles can be surgically removed. By interfering with normal blood flow to cool the testicle, varicoceles may increase local temperatures, interfering with sperm production locally near the affected vein in the testis.

Cooling may also be beneficial for sperm post-production because sperm spend time in an accessory storage organ called the epididymis which sits just on top of the testicle. Freshly produced sperm are moved to the epididymis where they slowly migrate through three regions of the epididymis, the caput, corpus and cauda before they are ejaculated.  As they move through these regions, sperm undergo modifications in their sperm membrane by gaining and losing various proteins, lipids and carbohydrates from the sperm membrane. These final membrane changes are essential for full sperm maturation and full function. Sperm gain the ability to swim strongly in a forward direction and also the ability to bind and fertilize the egg as they pass through the epididymis. In contrast, freshly produced testicular sperm have little or no motility and ICSI  (sperm injection) is necessary to achieve fertilization. Higher temperatures in the epididymis have been suggested to interfere with this maturation process by interfering with production of critical proteins in the epididymis.

Dr. Richard Ivell has published “Lifestyle impact and the biology of the human scrotum“, a nice summary of various lifestyle factors that cause heating on the testicle and harm fertility as a consequence. Much of modern life seems to be disadvantageous for sperm. Basics like wearing clothes to modern conveniences like diapers, hot tubs and heated car seats- not to mention laptops-  have all been proposed as contributing to the apparent decline in fertility in the male population over the last decades.

Ladies- you might want to get a lap desk for yourself too because lap tops have also been reported to cause as much as first degree burns on the skin when used for long periods of time. The mottled discolored skin or “toasted skin syndrome” reported by some users of lap tops is not surprising when temperatures around 125F have been reported from these devices. Excuse me while I move off the couch and ice down my skin….

© 2010 – 2011, Carole. All rights reserved.

4 Responses to this entry

  • C Says:

    Carole, if one compares day 5 expanded blastocysts to expanded blastocycts frozen on day 6, is there a difference in implantation and growth potential? In other words, does it make a difference if a blastocyst has taken 5 days or 6 six days to get to the exact same stage of development?

  • Carole Says:

    I think the answer to your question may be clinic-specific. The culture medium or timing of insemination may affect the timing to reach blastocyst stage between different programs. In our program, we expected to see most of our blasts on day 5 and we considered blasts on day 6 to be lagging. The program that you are using should be able to tell you what they typically see with blast development. Ask them on what day do embryos from the majority of their patients reach blastocyst stage- day 5 or day 6? If day 6 is a little slow for their program too, your chance of pregnancy may be reduced somewhat but can’t be ruled out. I hope this helps. Good Luck!!

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  • Fertility Lab Insider - Lessons learned from over fifteen years of working inside fertility labs. » Blog Archive » Blood Type Linked to Infertility? Not so fast. Says:

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