Sperm Docs on Laptops: Legs Akimbo!

Laptop cooling pads may do little to help prevent raised testicular temperature — a potential cause of fertility problems — according to a new study. Instead the best policy may be for men to keep their legs apart.

The study, published in the Fertility and Sterility magazine, looked into ways of mitigating the effects of a laptop on scrotal temperature. Although there are no clear studies conclusively proving that laptops can damage fertility, it is known that a raised temperature can damage sperm.

Indeed, the need to keep sperm at the correct temperature is the reason why the testicles are outside the body and thus slightly cooler than the body’s usual internal temperature.

The study was carried out at the State University of New York. It involved 29 test subjects, meaning the precise details may not accurately represent the general public, but any clear general conclusions should be correct.

The participants used laptops in three different set-ups, each for 60 minutes of continuous use. The first set-up was to sit with legs together, the second with legs together while using a lap pad below the laptop, and the third to sit with legs at a 70 degree angle.

The changes in temperature on both sides of the scrotum were measured after each session. In all three cases there were increases: with legs together the average overall increase was 2.435 degrees Celsius; with legs together and a lap pad; the average increase was 2.1 degrees; and with legs apart and a lap pad, the average increase was 1.44 degrees.

All three figures raise concern as it’s believed a temperature increase of as little as one degree Celsius can affect sperm quality. The researchers timed how long it took to reach this one degree increase and found it was 11 minutes with legs together, 14 minutes with legs together and a lap pad, and 28 minutes with legs apart and a lap pad.

Yelim Sheynkin, who led the study, said people shouldn’t panic as using a laptop wouldn’t automatically make you infertile: rather, frequent use might contribute to problems. He said lap pads made little significant difference and could even lead to a false sense of security and cause users to keep laptops on their laps a longer time.

Instead Sheynkin’s advice is that there’s no way to avoid the fact that laptops cause heating, and men should mitigate the problems by keeping their legs apart and severely limiting the time they keep laptops on their laps.

(Image credit: Flickr user M.V. Jantzen)

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