In the south, old wives' tales are considered fact by the general population. During my trying to conceive journey (TTC), I’ve been told to tell my husband to not take hot showers or baths, and there has even been discussion about whether he should wear boxers or briefs thanks to these old wives' tales. (For the record, he's asked me to state he's been #teamboxer for a long time). But what about the ladies? Can you take a bath when you're trying to conceive? TTC forums will claim the heat can affect your fertility and even your eggs, but does this myth hold up to science?
Dr. David Diaz, a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility expert at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, says, thankfully, you don’t have to give up those luxurious, glorious, hot baths. Which, let's be honest, are a lifesaver some days. In fact, your eggs thrive in a warm environment. Score. “A woman's eggs are stored in the ovaries, which are ‘intra-abdominal’ organs, located deep inside the pelvis,” he says in an email interview with Romper. “This means their normal environmental temperature is 98.6 degrees. This implies that they function best within the body's naturally warm, moist environment.”
“Our natural core body temperature is maintained by multiple thermo-regulatory mechanisms designed to protect us from excessive heat build-up,” Diaz says. “Dilation of our blood vessels, perspiration, and increased breathing all work to cool the body and maintain normal temperature at all times. It is therefore unlikely that a long bath, sauna, or a hot tub would affect the number and quality of a woman's ‘oocytes' (eggs)."
According to Diaz, the best ways to make sure you keep your egg counts are up and healthy include not smoking, not drinking excessively, and maintaining a healthy weight.
But when it comes to your partner, according to the Mayo Clinic, heat most certainly does affect men’s fertility, and keeping “the boys” (testicles) cool is an important step in making sure he’s at peak fertility. When testicle temperatures get too hot, it causes a low sperm count. Heat from saunas, showers lasting more than 30 minutes, electric blankets, heating pads, and tight clothing like briefs and spandex could cause your testicles to become too hot, which decreases sperm quantity, the Mayo Clinic noted. So, mom, you were right. I'm sorry.
However, Dr. Daniel Shapiro, a reproductive endocrinologist at Prelude Fertility tells Romper, “Even though there will be a transient increase in scrotal temperature during a hot shower, the increase for a short period of time will not affect sperm production, which is constant in healthy men."
Dr. Philip Werthman, a urologist and director for the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Vasectomy Reversal in Los Angeles, California, does add that men who use hot tubs experience a drop in sperm production. “Simply put, heat is bad for sperm, and as a result, makes it extremely difficult for a couple trying to conceive,” he tells Romper.
Werthman also notes that it’s important for men to not hold laptops in their laps. “Laptop computers generate a great deal of heat that can be bad for sperm. I recommend to my patients keeping their laptop on a pillow or closer to their knees to avoid having the testes unnecessarily exposed to heat.”
Apparently, friction is also bad for testicles, as friction causes heat — especially if your partner is a cyclist. “The rise of temperature and possibility of injury may cause a low sperm count,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
Even the heat from hot, steamy summers can affect sperm count, adds Shapiro. “It has long been known that sperm counts drift down during the summer months, and that pregnancy occurs less frequently during the summer as a result.” Well that explains a lot. I wish I had known that before TTC all summer and getting frustrated with the lack of pregnancy.
So fear not, and partake in that hot, luxurious bath as often as you'd like — you absolutely deserve it. As far as your partner goes, maybe stick to TTC during the cooler months, and ask him to limit his showers to 30 minutes or less. Make sure he chooses boxers over briefs, and he stays away from cycling when TTC. And perhaps you should invest in a laptop “table” for his lap, to keep it away from the boys.
This post was originally published on Sept. 9, 2017. It was updated on Aug. 21, 2019.