Fact or Myth: Does Underwear Really Impact Sexual Health?
Infertility is most often thought of as a curse upon women; but as more studies are done, it is being found that men are struggling too.
One study estimates that nearly 72.4 million couples globally experience fertility problems.” Of these cases, “approximately 40–50% are due to “male factor” infertility and as many as 2% of all men will exhibit suboptimal sperm parameters.
One of the ways men struggle with infertility is caused by excessive heat. But it’s not just the heat of summer that affects men; scientists are starting to look at the myths and fabled wives’ tales surrounding the question of underwear – and whether choosing a specific type of underwear would help men improve their sexual health.
What is the Big Deal?
For a healthy and fertile male, there isn’t an issue. He can wear whichever one he would like. Unfortunately, for those who are struggling with fertility, the debate between boxers or briefs is not just an issue of comfort or support, but it is a specific concern for the health of their sperm.
Oxford Academic published a study looking at 656 men who were complaining of infertility. They found that “overall, more than 50 percent of the men said they usually wore boxers. These men had a 25 percent "higher sperm concentration," a 17 percent higher total sperm count, and 33 percent more swimming sperm than men who said they didn't usually wear boxers.”
Importantly, the greatest statistical difference in sperm quality was found between men who wore boxer shorts and men who wore jockeys or briefs.
In men, sperm are made within the testes. The testes, located within the scrotal sack, are located outside of the body — specifically away from the core heat of the body. Celia E. Dominguez, reproductive endocrinologist, Center for Reproductive Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine says, “In order for testes to produce sufficient quality and quantity of sperm, the temperature of testes must be lower than the core body temperature.”
Another issue is the sperm’s life cycle. The body is continuously making sperm, and each sperm lives around 10-11 weeks inside the testes. If they get too hot and become damaged in the early growth cycle, they will still remain damaged the length of their life. This means that a man cannot just switch to boxers when he wants to father a child; he must protect the sperm all the time.
The Way to Keep Cool
The main goal is to keep the testes cool, and they need to be away from the core heat of the body. The best underwear choice is the loose, boxer-style underwear. This allows more air to flow into the crotch area, which in turn, keeps the area cooler. Note: Some men like the boxer-brief style. This style of underwear is typically not loose enough for most men. Your underwear should allow the scrotal sack to hang freely. Of course, there are times when men would prefer there to be less testicular movement – when playing sport, for instance – but there should always be ample time made for hanging around, so to speak.
It’s not just underwear that is an issue; tight (or heavy) clothing or an occupation that requires a man to sit for long periods of time can create havoc for the sperm. Don’t dismiss the idea of tight clothing — we’re not just talking about workout gear or riding a bike too much. The wrong clothing can be in the form of dress slacks or even heavy pants that construction workers wear. While you can’t go to work naked, try to dress in looser and lighter clothing that will keep you cooler.
Lastly, avoid sitting in hot water. Summertime may not be as tempting for the extended use of a hot tub, but in the cooler months, a long soak in a hot tub or a hot baths will raise the core temperature of the testes and possibly damage the sperm.
For some men, it can be a fashion choice. But for those who are struggling with infertility, your underwear does have an impact on your sexual health. So remember, anything that makes or keeps the scrotal area too hot, can harm the viability of your sperm. As you keep cool during these hot summer months, remember to keep your sperm cool too.