Climate change & its effect on male fertility

According to research, climate change could pose a threat to male fertility. New studies report that heatwaves can damage sperm in insects which can have a negative impact on fecundity across generations. Researchers say that male infertility due to heatwaves could help to explain why climate change is having an impact on species populations, which includes climate-related extinctions in recent years as well. Heat can affect male fertility by hampering sperm production.

can-climate-change-affect-fertility
Can climate change affect fertility

How does heat affect male fertility?

Most of the cases of Infertility in males is due to low sperm count, and heat can play a harmful role when a couple is trying to conceive, because the increased scrotal temperature can hamper sperm production. A man’s testicles are known to produce sperms. To make healthy sperms the testicles need to be four degrees cooler than body temperature hence the testicles are found in scrotum which hangs outside a man’s body. The cremaster muscle (the muscle of the spermatic cord, by which the testicle can be partially raised) contracts to pull the testicles closer to the body if it starts getting too cold and then relaxes to push them far away from the body to cool if they get too warm. If the exposure to heat is a prolonged one, it can affect sperm production processes, causing the body to produce sperm less in number, many of which may be abnormally shaped. Moreover, this will show up on semen analysis, as reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm morphology accompanied by reduced motility.

The body has many efficient mechanisms to keep the scrotal temperature at perfect levels, and usually, it can manage most of the weather changes and exercise-related heat changes. In general, it is seen that for every one-degree increase in ambient temperature, the scrotal temperature adjusts by increasing by only about one-tenth of the ambient temperature. However, despite all these effective mechanisms, the testicles at times can be exposed to amounts of heat that can cause a problem with fertility.

Can heat waves caused by climate change impair male fertility?

According to lead author Kirs Sales (The University of East Anglia) words that “Research has shown that heat shock can damage male reproduction in warm-blooded animals, and previous work has shown that this leads to infertility in mammals too.”

Researchers believe that the latest problem to be linked with global warming is declining sperm counts in males. Heat waves are predicted to be more common and more severe this century as human-caused forced climatic changes continue. Deforestation to build up more space for the human population, the increase in pollution every day are the adding factors responsible for global warming. This has disturbed the ecological balance in a way.

Heat waves are damaging extreme weather events and have halved reproductive fitness. Sperm production has taken a hit and as a result low sperm count with diminished motility and abnormal shape are found when investigated for male infertility. Local extinctions can occur when temperature changes become too intense. We wanted to know actually why this happens. So, the only answer could be related to sperm since sperm function is essential for reproduction and population viability.

In human males, the sperm production happens within the testicles, and for this, the testicular temperature should be cooler than the temperature inside of the body. Researchers also say that heat wave conditions, i.e. a 9 to 13 degrees above the expected high temperature for five days in a row can damage male fertility, but not female fertility. Heat waves reduce male fertility and sperm competitiveness, and successive heat waves almost sterilise males.

In this particular research, led by Kirs Sales, a postgraduate researcher: following trial heatwaves, the sperm production in males was seen to be reduced by three-quarters, and any sperm that were produced struggled to move into the female tract and were more likely to die just before fertilisation.

Reduce heat exposure as climate change cannot be controlled

Men may be suggested to reduce heat exposure as climate change cannot be controlled.Doctors do suggest how to reduce heat around the testicles, but some of these suggestions may sound weird, but if followed religiously they can make a difference in sperm production. Studies have shown that sitting in a hot tub or sauna can reduce sperm production, so you should avoid it if you and your wife are trying to conceive. While working put your laptop or your cell phone on the desk and not on your lap, don’t wear very tight fittings jeans, trousers or underwear.

Please stay cool in the summer: Research has shown that there is a natural decline in sperm count during the summer season due to increased temperatures. So regular swims in the pool, spending time in air conditioning rooms, or walking when cool breeze flows can do a lot to keep your fertility up.

If your occupation demands exposure to heat at your workplace or during your rest time, take breaks surely to cool yourself. Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay has been vocal enough and talked about his battle with infertility due to long hours spent in hot kitchens. He and his wife Tana then were able to conceive with the help of IVF procedure.

If you’re obese, think of losing at least five to ten percent of your body fat. Rigorous cycling has been correlated with reduced sperm production. If you’re an enthusiastic cyclist, look into getting a proper bicycle seat which does not put pressure and thus heats your scrotum. A visit to the urologist is recommended who can evaluate your problems related to testicles and determine if any surgery can correct them.

CONCLUSION

Sperm cells are the most sensitive cells in the body. They not only need an environment free of toxins but also needs a particular set of vitamins- as already discussed in the blog they are also sensitive to high temperature. Hence adopting healthy lifestyle practices can improve sperm production and also your fertility and which in turn improve your chances of conceiving. However, if you and your partner have not been able to conceive after a year of unprotected sex, then you should consider visiting a fertility specialist.

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