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Boxers vs. Briefs. Does Underwear Affect Male Fertility?

March 08, 2015

Boxers or briefs?

Men often face this age-old question as they get dressed to start their day. As a urologist, it’s also a question I’m often asked regarding male fertility.

We’ve all probably heard it before: tight briefs lower sperm count, while loose boxers or pants do not.

I’m here to tell you it’s a myth. Though low sperm count is the major cause of male-related infertility, whether you wear boxers or briefs really doesn’t matter. Several other things affect male infertility, so before you throw out any underwear or clothing that fits a little too tightly, here are some things you should know:

The Boxers vs. Briefs Myth

Sperm is produced in the testicles, a very sensitive organ that has to be a few degrees lower in temperature compared to the rest of your body.

This temperature difference allows the testicles to produce the optimal amount of testosterone and sperm, which is essential for fertility. The common theory is that when you wear tight clothing, you disrupt the natural ability of the testicles to regulate temperature and produce the optimal amount of sperm. However, researchers have conducted several studies examining temperature changes in men who wear briefs, and they found only a very minor or insignificant temperature change in this group compared to men who wear boxers. Other studies have looked at sperm count and sperm quality, but haven’t found much of a difference in these two categories among brief wearers versus boxer wearers.

Common Causes of Male Infertility

In an ideal setting, you would produce enough sperm that can travel effectively toward your partner’s egg. However, there are several medical, environmental and lifestyle causes to male infertility that have a larger influence on the sperm’s ability to make this journey successful. Some of these include:

Medical: Varicoceles, infection, ejaculation issues, tumors, undescended testicles, hormone imbalances (i.e., low testosterone), genetic defects, medications, prior surgeries

Environmental: Industrial exposures, radiation, overheating of the testicles

Lifestyle: Use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco, occupational hazards, emotional stress, excess bodyweight

What You Can Do

If you have fertility concerns, you first should talk to your doctor and have him or her test your sperm count and quality. A majority of cases can be corrected with medical therapy, so do not let stress get in the way of improved sperm quality and production. There are also several lifestyle changes that can help. Here are some quick tips:
  1. Avoid hot baths and saunas.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight.
  3. Avoid lifestyle risk factors mentioned above.
  4. Have frequent intercourse.
  5. Increase your consumption of antioxidants by eating more berries, nuts and green and orange vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes and kale, all of which also are rich in vitamins and other essential nutrients.
  6. Avoid products that have components with an estrogenic action as they suppress sperm production.
  7. Know your medications. Treatments for things like cancer, inflammatory bowel disorders and blood pressure medications can reduce sperm quality and damage sperm production.
  8. Decrease your emotional stress.
Remember that any lifestyle changes you make to improve fertility will take at least 10-12 weeks to produce positive changes in your sperm quality. Though it could take awhile, it’s important to begin making changes today.

Fertility issues can be very challenging for couples, but thankfully there are several things you can do—and that we as doctors can do—to help you overcome these challenges and fulfill the dreams you have for your family.

For more information and health tips, follow Dr. Brambhatt on Twitter and Facebook

Boxers vs. Briefs. Does Underwear Affect Male Fertility?

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