Male Fertility (Sperm Counts) May be Reduced by Hot Bath

Male Fertility (Sperm Counts) May be Reduced by Hot Bath

The average chance to conceive for a normally fertile couple having regular, unprotected intercourse is approximately 25 percent during each menstrual cycle. In most couples, conception occurs within about 12 months. However, infertility affects about 10 percent of couples of childbearing age. Infertility is not just a woman's concern. A problem with the male is the sole cause, or a contributing cause, of infertility in about 40 percent of infertile couples. About one-fourth of infertile couples have more than one cause or factor related to their inability to conceive. About 10 to 15 percent of couples have no identifiable cause for their infertility after medical investigation.

The testicles are the male reproductive organs. Coiled within each testicle are the seminiferous tubules. The seminiferous tubules are lined with spermatogonia cells. These are cells that produce sperm. Semen is the fluid that a man ejaculates. Sperm are found within semen and are the cells that fertilize a female’s egg resulting in pregnancy. The ability to produce sperm is dependent on adequate levels of hormones, called FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone). LH and FSH are released by the pituitary gland, located in the brain.

Testosterone is the male hormone responsible for secondary sexual characteristics (facial hair, deep voice, mature genitalia) and maintaining normal male sexual function. Testosterone is produced by Leydig cells, which are found throughout the testicle.

The most common cause of male infertility is a varicocele (say: "var-ee-koh-seal"). This is when the veins in the scrotum (the skin "sack" that hangs beneath the penis) are dilated (enlarged) on 1 or both sides. This heats the inside of the scrotum and may affect sperm production. A blockage in a man's reproductive system may cause male infertility. Other causes of male infertility may include:

You're most likely to be fertile if you have more than 20 million sperm per milliliter of semen. However, researchers are finding that having healthy sperm (the quality) may be just as important as the total amount of sperm you produce. Of the millions of sperm in the ejaculated semen, only about 200 actually reach the egg in a woman's fallopian tube. But, just one is needed to fertilize the egg.

Sperm quantity and quality varies among men and can be affected by a variety of things — some you can impact, others you can't. While you may not be able to control all the factors that may improve your chances of achieving a pregnancy, there are steps you can take to make sure your sperm are top performers.

Male fertility plunges with frequent dips into the hot tub but may recover when men stay away from long hot soaks, research suggests.

"The lore in our culture is that hot baths are bad for fertility," Dr. Paul J. Turek told Reuters Health. "But I was seeing so many couples who had never heard this that I decided to look and see what was actually published on this topic."

To his surprise, said Turek, from the University of California, San Francisco, he found "scarce data exists on this subject to support the lore, and so we chose to study it in our own practice."

Turek and his colleagues identified 11 infertile men, average age 36, who habitually used a hot tub, heated Jacuzzi or hot bath for at least 30 minutes per week. The investigators evaluated the men's semen quality before and after they stopped using hot tubs, etc., for 3 or more months.

After 3 to 6 months, five of the men had an average increase in total motile sperm counts of 491 percent.

"A large chunk of men who regularly take hot baths, sit in hot tubs or Jacuzzi's can improve their semen quality and possibly their fertility potential by simply discontinuing this activity," Turek said.

Five of the six men who did not see an increase in sperm count or quality were chronic cigarette smokers with a significant smoking history, whereas three of the men who had a good response were only occasional smokers.

"The message for men trying to conceive," Turek concluded, "is to take great care of yourself and treat your body like a temple, as sperm production in particular is very sensitive to overall male health. It makes sense, given that a normal healthy man makes 1,200 sperm per heartbeat. This is a fast running engine that needs a healthy body to keep up that pace."

Infertility may have profound psychological effects. Partners may become more anxious to conceive, ironically increasing sexual dysfunction. Marital discord often develops in infertile couples, especially when they are under pressure to make medical decisions.


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