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5 March 2007
Hot Tubs, No Bubs
by George Atkinson

A new study in the International Brazilian Journal of Urology demonstrates that excessive exposure to hot baths or hot tubs can lead to male infertility. The author of the study, Paul J. Turek, a urologist from the University of California, San Francisco, said that there was now firm evidence to show that high bathing temperatures were a real risk factor for male infertility.

The findings are based on a three-year study that analyzed data from infertile men who had been repeatedly exposed to high water temperatures through hot tubs, Jacuzzis or hot baths. Although high scrotal temperatures have been recognized in the past as a factor affecting sperm motility, this is the first study to show that total body exposure to wet heat can also impair both sperm production and motility.

"It has been believed for decades that wet heat exposure is bad for fertility, as an old wives' tale, but this effect has rarely been documented," Turek said. Interestingly, beliefs about wet heat's effect on fertility exist in many cultures. In Japan, there is a very old tradition of barring childless men from conducting business deals in hot tubs, due to its believed effect on fertility.

But the good news is that the negative effect of hot water exposure was reversible in nearly half of the infertile men who discontinued the practice. Once the heat exposure had ceased, these men had an increase in total motile sperm counts of 491 percent after three to six months.

Turek believes that simply halting such harmful exposure could be a much simpler method of increasing fertility than resorting to assisted reproduction technologies like IVF. "One implication of this work is that a simple lifestyle maneuver could shift the care from high-tech intervention to no-tech," he noted. "Couples really prefer having kids at home and not with technology. This is a way to help them do that."

Related articles:
Driving Can Make You Infertile

Source: University of California - San Francisco

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