Do cell phones really impact sperm quality?
LAST UPDATED: Mar 01, 2023
3 MIN READ
HERE'S WHAT WE'LL COVER
Let’s just admit it: We are in deep, committed (probably co-dependent) relationships with our phones. There are many compelling reasons to limit our phone usage, from getting better sleep to preventing “tech neck.” And yes, actually making eye contact with strangers. There is also a claim that consistent exposure to mobile phone radiation could negatively impact sperm quality, potentially causing fertility issues in men.
So, do men need to be tossing or turning off their iPhones in order to remain fertile? Should we be worried about tech neck and tech…um…testicles? We looked into the latest clinical studies to get some answers.
Sperm and semen analysis
First, let’s clarify some stuff about sperm. Many important variables are taken into consideration when analyzing sperm health and its ability to fertilize eggs. For example, there’s motility: the way a sperm moves and swims so it’s able to reach the egg. Then, there’s viability (sometimes called vitality), the number of sperm that are alive, well, and therefore capable of fertilizing an egg. You’ve also got concentration, which is the millions of cells existing per milliliter of semen, and morphology, the shape of the sperm cells. These sperm characteristics in addition to others can be evaluated via a semen analysis, a test that’s done in order to evaluate male fertility.
What science says about sperm and technology
A small study published in the Central European Journal of Urology, suggests there may be a relationship between mobile phone radiation and decreased sperm motility. The study used a small sample size of only 32 men, all of whom had healthy semen parameters and were instructed to avoid keeping their phones in their pockets for a period of two months before the experiment began.
After donating semen, each sample was then divided into two groups: one was kept in close proximity to a cell phone that was on standby mode while the other was not. A call was also placed every 10 minutes. After five hours, the semen in each group was reevaluated, and researchers reported that mobile phone radiation negatively impacted sperm motility in the exposed semen samples.
In 2014, a literature review was done on ten clinical studies, looking at a total of 1,492 semen samples from all of the trials combined. Overall, 50-80 percent of the samples had normal movement, but that number fell by an average of 8 percent when the samples were exposed to cell phone radiation. This suggests that sperm viability and overall quality may deteriorate when exposed to cell phone frequencies.
It’s important to note, however, that the researchers who led this study ultimately concluded that while there seems to be a correlation between sperm quality and carrying your phone in your pocket, this behavior is more likely to affect men who are on the “borderline” of infertility, such as those already dealing with issues like testicular or genetic abnormalities. More research is needed in this area before definitive conclusions can be drawn.
However, other research suggests that your iPhone is not affecting fertility. A more recent study looked at the semen samples of over 150 donors and found no relationship between cell phone use and semen parameters, like sperm count, motility, and sperm morphology.
Sperm count on the decline
Studies suggest that sperm count is on the decline in North America, Europe, and Australia. However, scientists largely remain unsure as to why. We do know that while sperm counts are plummeting in the Western world, they do not seem to be declining in South America, Asia, and Africa. Does it have to do with the use of cell phones? Not as far as we know—it more likely has to do with environmental toxins, obesity, and factors we may not be aware of yet.
The bottom line (that ends with a question mark)
The medical community isn’t totally sure how cell phones impact sperm quality. While there are a few study results suggesting that cell phone radiation negatively impacts sperm quality, there is still no conclusive understanding. Likely, a variety of factors are at play when it comes to male infertility. More research (and larger sample sizes) are needed.
In the end, you should be aware of risks to your overall health, but don’t be paranoid. A number of lifestyle factors, like diet, smoking, drug and alcohol use, and stress also play a role in male fertility. If you are concerned about potential fertility issues, talk to your healthcare provider.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.