EMFs and fertility: how it could affect you conceiving

Delving into the science behind the impact of electromagnetic radiation on reproductive health.

It’s a fact: infertility is at an all-time high.

In England and Wales, there are now officially (1) fewer babies being born than at any other time since records began. This nosedive in births is echoed across the globe, with researchers lamenting (2) a ‘remarkable’ decline in worldwide fertility rates.

According to the National Survey of Family Growth, one in eight couples in the United States alone have trouble getting pregnant, (3) with a massive 7.4 million American women suffering from infertility. In the UK, the problem is even more pronounced, with a reported one in seven couples (4) experiencing issues in starting a family.

Male fertility is in particular trouble. As demonstrated in scientific research, (5) sperm count and quality diminished by more than 50% between 1973 and 2011, showing no signs of improving in recent years - with a whopping 20% of young men aged 18-25 now classed as “sub fertile”. (6)

Ok, so infertility has reached a peak – but what has that got to do with wireless technology?

Wireless, internet-enabled devices like mobile phones and tablets – all of which use electromagnetic radiation to transmit data - have become increasingly omnipresent within our daily lives, advancing and evolving on an unprecedented scale.

Whilst the exact effects of this radiation on our biological systems are still debated by scientists, a substantial number of studies have linked repeated exposure to electromagnetic radiation with decreased fertility in both men and women. Findings pinpoint the destructive effects of EMR radiation (7) not only on human sex hormones and testicular function, but also embryonic development, foetal development and pregnancy. The impact of the radiation has been found to vary depending on how often, and for how long, exposure takes place, but nonetheless, scientific experts have advised (8) that men and women trying for a baby should take care “to avoid EMF exposure” and use “techniques to protect or relieve EMF radiation […] to preserve reproductive potential”.

How does EMF radiation affect male fertility?

Reasons for the sharp decline in male reproductive health may range from stress, smoking and alcohol consumption to obesity, nutrition and lifestyle. But there’s another, less obvious, factor repeatedly cited by researchers: the use of EMF-emitting wireless devices.

Over recent years, numerous scientific studies (9) have focused on an increasingly difficult-to-deny link between mobile phone exposure and male infertility; stating (10) that “carrying a cell phone in a pant pocket (or cell phone clipped to a belt on the waist) exposes the testes to high-power density mobile radiation”.

One such study (11) took 361 men attending infertility clinic, and divided them into groups according to their mobile phone use; ranging from no use at all, to four full hours a day. When comparing the sperm count, motility and vitality amongst the different groups, the scientists uncovered some alarming results. Each of the tested sperm factors significantly decreased as the duration of daily mobile phone exposure increased.

Queen’s University in Canada & The Medical University of Graz, Austria study (12) resulted in similar findings. Examining a group of 2,100 men, scientists noted a “significant difference” in sperm count between those who used a mobile phone and those who didn’t. The same study also found that prolonged mobile phone radiation exposure decreased the luteinising hormone - a key sex hormone secreted by the brain.

Other researchers (13) have confirmed the correlation between prolonged mobile phone radiation exposure, DNA fragmentation level and decreased sperm motility, recommending that ‘for men readying themselves for fatherhood […] it would be better to avoid holding a mobile phone in the trouser pocket for long periods of time.”

Is it only mobile phones that are to blame?

Laptops may be another unexpected culprit. Research (14) shows that a laptop rested on the knees can raise the temperature of a man’s testicles by 2.8 degrees. Further studies (15) have additionally revealed a worrying association with the use of a Wi-Fi connected laptop and a decrease in sperm motility, as well as sperm DNA fragmentation. Whilst more research in this area is required, a growing number of scientists now believe that (16) “keeping a laptop connected wirelessly to the internet on the lap near the testes may result in decreased male fertility”.

What about women? How is their fertility affected by EMF radiation?

Whilst the harmful effects of prolonged EMF radiation exposure from specific sources such as mobile phones on male fertility are well documented, less research has been carried out on its impact on female reproductive health.

What we can say with some certainty, is that electromagnetic radiation at the levels emitted by wireless devices has the potential to affect cell function and cell growth – both of which are vital to the healthy development of a baby. This suggests that when it comes to EMF exposure, conception and pregnancy may be a time of greater risk.

Supporting this idea, some scientists believe that embryo growth in the early stages of pregnancy is negatively affected by EMF radiation, with studies advising against (17) prolonged periods spent using wireless devices for pregnant women.

Five pointers for peak fertility: how to live in tune with technology when you’re trying for a baby

  1. Couples trying to conceive should keep any exposure to electromagnetic fields produced by wireless devices to an absolute minimum.
  2. Just as you would avoid alcohol or cigarette smoke, women trying to conceive should try to keep mobile phones, laptops and wireless devices as far away from their bodies and abdomens as possible.
  3. Both men and women should always avoid keeping their phones in their pockets, or laptops and tablets in their laps. Place laptops on a surface when working.
  4. If possible, use specially designed phone, laptop and tablet cases or carriers that work to shield you from EMF radiation, minimising negative effects and blocking exposure.
  5. Enforce a ‘digital detox’ zone in your home. Keep bedrooms and living spaces free from Wi-Fi routers, and always turn off mobile data, wifi & bluetooth on wireless devices and into airplane mode, or off completely, at night.

References

(1) https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/aug/01/birth-rate-in-england-and-wales-at-all-time-low
(2) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-46118103
(3) https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/infertility-statistics-stats-about-infertility_n_571f8c0ce4b0f309baee9bde
(4) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility/
(5) https://academic.oup.com/humupd/article/23/6/646/4035689
(6) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101128194013.htm
(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341445/
(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341445/
(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21799142
(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2776019/
(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17482179
(12) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110519113022.htm
(13) http://ceju.online/journal/2014/commenting-on-gorpinchenko-et-al-the-influence-of-direct-mobile-phone-radiation-on-sperm-439.php
(14) https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/20/2/452/603276
(15) https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(11)02678-1/abstract
(16) https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(11)02678-1/pdf
(17) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20568468

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