By J. E. Hinners, MD MPH
A 2013 study in Finland explored the effects of regular sauna exposure on sperm quality in 10 healthy Finnish males.
While this sample number is not the ideal sample of 50 or more, as previously discussed, the results of this study may indicate potential male fertility precautions that should be further explored in future studies with larger sample sizes.
Subjects were exposed to two 15-minute sauna sessions on a weekly basis over the course of 3 months (at 80-90 degrees C). Sperm parameters, sperm chromatin structure, sperm apoptosis, sex hormones, and the expression of heat stress/hypoxia genes were measured before and after sauna exposure as well as after 3 and 6 months following discontinuation of sauna exposure.
Sauna exposure caused temporary impairment of sperm count and motility
Here were the findings:
- After sauna exposure, significant decrease in sperm count and motility was evident; sex hormone levels were not affected.
- Percentage decreases were also discovered in sperm with normal histone-protamine substitution, chromatin condensation, and mitrochondrial function.
- Genes that respond to heat stress and hypoxia were identified in greater amounts.
- All of these effects were completely reversed after 6 months of discontinuing sauna exposure.
While reliable data with more powerful sample sizes are not available, if you are a male looking to start a family and want to optimize the chances of healthy sperm, you might consider taking a break from the sauna!