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February 15, 2022
Can icing the testicles really improve fertility?
Fertility concerns can lead you to read some about some wild home remedies. Have you heard of this one: Icing the testicles to boost fertility?
If you are concerned about your fertility or have a low sperm count, you might be willing to try anything to improve it. But, before you do, let's look at icing your testicles to boost fertility in more detail. And see if it is beneficial to your sperm and your overall health.
Heat from fevers, exercise, baths, or sedentary lifestyle can affect sperm quality.
However, there’s no evidence that cooling the testes with ice packs or cold showers can help reduce the impact of heat or improve fertility.
If you’re trying to conceive, the best option is to avoid activities that increase your scrotal temperature — sperm quality will recover on its own.
How does heat affect sperm production?
Dr. Ramy Abou Ghayda, urologist and chief medical officer at Legacy, explains that “the testicles sit outside of the body for a specific reason.”
Spermatogenesis (sperm production) happens best when the testicles are slightly lower than body temperature, around 95–96ºF. You may notice that your sack hangs lower on a hot day — this is your body's way of helping heat dissipate so your testicles can cool down. In contrast, if it's cold, you will find they are closer to your body to try and preserve heat. It's all about maintaining that ideal temperature to help you produce quality sperm.
"We have a strong body of evidence that shows if you expose the testicles to too much heat, it may affect sperm production," continued Ghayda. The extent of the impact depends on how much heat, how long, and how regularly the exposure happens.
The types of activities thought to cause heat exposure when carried out on a regular (i.e., daily) basis include:
However, although studies show that excessive heat exposure can lower sperm production, it can recover after stopping the heat stress. So, does helping your testicles cool down aid that recovery? Does icing your balls regularly promote sperm production? Let's find out.
Testicle-cooling devices — how do they work?
Yes, there are actual “testicle coolers,” products that claim they cool your testicles to improve fertility.
Snowballs are a brand of cooling underwear that hold "SnowWedges" (ice packs) to bring down the temperature of your scrotum. Similarly, the Underdog consists of a wedge-shaped ice pack to cool your testicles while you’re sitting for long periods. The "CoolMen" gadget is a pricey wearable testicle cooler that connects to your smartphone.
Many of the products include special underwear or are designed to sit on and cool your genital area — a fancy way of getting an ice pack closer to your balls. But, a strategically placed bag of frozen peas in a dishcloth probably has the same effect.
The question isn't about the design. Does icing your testicles actually work?
Is there any evidence that icing the testicles improves fertility?
According to Dr. Ghayda, the short answer is "no, these devices are not necessary." He advises that there is no evidence that decreasing the temperature of the testicles with ice packs will improve sperm production. The exception may be very specific situations such as cases of undescended testicles.
"We know that heat can cause damage to sperm," states Ghayda, "but there is no evidence to say that icing testicles will be of benefit," or will compensate for the damage of heat. Reviews of the scientific research have had inconclusive results. Most studies show that stopping the regular heat exposure leads to sperm quality and production returning to normal on its own.
What about testosterone and cold showers?
Despite the myth that “cold showers improve testosterone levels,” there’s no evidence that cooling or icing the testicles affects testosterone. Research shows that exposure to cooler temperatures may be associated with lower testosterone levels.
The bottom line on icing your balls: No clear benefit
Sure, lengthy scorching-hot showers, baths, or jacuzzis daily will potentially harm your sperm quality and production. But, having cold showers or placing ice packs on your testicles will not necessarily have any benefit at all.
You also need to be careful with placing an ice pack on any part of the body. If not used correctly, placing an ice pack directly on the skin can lead to ice burns and even frostbite. If you decide to use an ice pack at home, never put it directly on the skin. Always cover the ice pack with a cloth or towel.
Improve your sperm quality by reducing heat exposure
Evidence shows that too much heat exposure regularly can damage your sperm. Exactly how often and how much remains unknown. But, if you have fertility concerns and sit in a hot tub every day, you might want to lessen the frequency.
Dr. Ghayda recommends:
Wearing loose underwear that lets air circulate your testicles
Temporarily eliminating activities that cause excessive heat exposure
Leading a healthy lifestyle that includes eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly