Do Men Produce Healthier Sperm In Cooler Months?
Many couples who are trying to conceive often wonder what they can do to increase their chances of success. A suggestion you may have heard from well-meaning friends and relatives is that it’s easier to conceive during the winter and early spring. But, is there any proof behind this suggestion, or is it only an old wives’ tale?
Does temperature affect sperm production and health?
Temperature has been found to play a role in sperm production, with higher temperatures damaging sperm. Prolonged high temperatures, like those found in saunas, may reduce sperm motility or count. Likewise, sperm concentration can decrease by as much as 32% after a man suffers from a fever, notes a study from Human Reproduction.
Extreme, prolonged exposure to heat can have significant effects on sperm health. Do these effects translate to more moderate fluctuations that mark the passing seasons?
Is it easier to conceive in winter?
A 2013 report published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology attempted to find an answer to that question. Researchers from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev tested 6,455 semen samples over a three-year period. They knew that there was a marked difference in sperm quality in animals during the cooler months, and wondered if this occurred in humans as well.
Researchers found that there were, in fact, seasonal differences in sperm health. Men with normal sperm production had the healthiest sperm in winter and early spring. They produced 70 million sperm per millileter of semen, compared to 68 million at the end of spring. Further, 5% of winter-produced sperm had fast motility (or speed), which makes conception easier, compared to 3% in spring.
As the researchers summarized, these increased rates of production could explain higher birth rates in the fall months and make it easier for couples to conceive in cooler months.
Except, there’s a catch
While these are interesting results, they don’t prove that temperature alone is the key to these seasonal fluctuations. Other factors influencing sperm health in winter could be related to hormonal variations or the amount of daylight hours.
Further, researchers found these results only in men who already had normal sperm production. Men with abnormal sperm production (anything under 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen is considered a low sperm count according to the World Health Organization) did not see the same seasonal fluctuations.
Instead, men with abnormal sperm production had slightly better motility in the fall and produced the largest percentage of normal sperm in the spring months. For these men, the advice may be to attempt to conceive in the spring or fall, instead of winter.
What does it mean for our attempts to conceive?
For couples who are trying to conceive, these findings shouldn’t affect the guidance you’re following from your doctor. Other lifestyle influences, like aging, alcohol or tobacco use, stress, or physical inactivity, likely play a much larger role in your sperm health. There’s no reason to limit trying to conceive only to the winter months.
Then again, if it inspires you to spend an extra night cuddling under the blankets, that won’t hurt either.
If you’re interested in learning more about male infertility treatments, contact one of our fertility clinics in Mandeville, Metairie, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans today!