You and your partner have decided it’s time to make a baby, but even though things might be heating up in the boudoir, you might want to keep those balls of yours on ice. Literally.
According to numerous studies, sperm thrive in lower temperatures and experts suggest that to improve your fertility odds, you should chill your testicles.
Yes, you read that right. If you and your partner are having trouble conceiving, you might want to consider improving living conditions down there for your sperm. No—it doesn’t mean you have to keep an ice pack in your jock at all times, but there are some periodic measures you can take to cool off the boys…at least while you’re actively trying to conceive.
What is the best temperature environment for healthy sperm?
Optimal sperm development requires your testes to be about 2 degrees Fahrenheit less than the rest of your body, which is usually achieved through the highly-specialized testicular blood supply. When sperm are exposed to temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, they express a protein that causes them to develop abnormally and sometimes die before they finish maturing.
What causes testicles to overheat?
Although environmental factors—like spending too much time in hot tubs or saunas or wearing snug pants—can affect testicular temperatures, there are a number of medical abnormalities that might cause things to heat up down there.
- Varicocele: Similar to a varicose vein you’d get in your leg, a varicocele results from pooling blood within a scrotal vein, which can cause the scrotum to heat up and hamper production of healthy sperm. Varicoceles account for about 40 percent of men who are unable to conceive their first child, but luckily, are easily repaired through minor surgery
- Cryptorchidism: This is a disorder in which one or both testes fail to descend into the scrotum and remain in the abdomen or inguinal canal at birth, which may affect sperm production. If the condition remains untreated, the affected testis heats up and fails to produce sperm at puberty but the other testis picks up the slack. If both testes are affected, sperm production is hampered and could lead to fertility issues
- Obesity: A 2012 study found that obesity—and a large belly in particular—could lead to fertility issues by causing increased testicular temperatures
Ice, ice, baby
To improve semen quality, some studies have shown that icing your testicles might help boost fertility. Studies have shown that occasionally reducing the temperature of the scrotal area by just a few degrees can reverse male infertility. The enzymes responsible for testosterone and sperm production work most effectively at a certain optimally-cool temperature, so you don’t want to be out of that zone.
Josh Shoemake watched his close friend struggle for years with fertility issues, but doctors kept focusing on his wife. Finally, the friend went to see his urologist who discovered a varicocele and told him, “ ‘Look man, what you need to do is ice your balls,” and suggested he buy a bag of frozen peas to do the job.
That’s when the lightbulb went off for Shoemake and he developed Snowballs, a cooling underwear for men. The wedges, or ice packs, slip into pockets that surround the scrotum and help cool things off down there. They recommend that men pinpoint when they’re at their warmest—like after a workout—and slip into some Snowballs to cool things off.
According to the website, studies of men who cooled their testicles nightly showed a significant increase in sperm count after just eight weeks, and a further increase after twelve weeks. Given the time it takes to produce sperm, three months of treatment is recommended to see a marked improvement.
How do I know if icing my balls is working?
There’s no way to know if overheated testicles are hurting your fertility unless you get it tested, but a trip to the doctor’s office to provide a sperm sample can be so awkward. SpermCheck is an over-the-counter male fertility test you can use at home to quickly and easily find out your sperm count.
Whether you choose a bag of peas or fancy underpants, icing yourself down there could create the optimal environment for producing healthy sperm and improve your chances of fertility.