Can Sauna Visits Affect Fertility?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Justin Ternes
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For some men, visiting a sauna is synonymous with masculinity. Whether they relax in the sauna after an intense workout or just as an everyday routine, the sauna can provide immediate well-being boost and longer-term positive health benefits. However, too much time in the sauna can be detrimental to your health, mainly through dehydration and heatstroke. With all the fantastic benefits, you might wonder if there are additional potential downsides to sauna use.  Can sauna visits affect fertility?

Although there are limited studies, they show no correlation of decreased fertility in men with sauna use. So, it’s okay to use a sauna if you and your partner are trying to get pregnant. However, if you’re having trouble conceiving, stop sauna use in case it is having an effect. 

It’s good to know that scientific studies show absolutely zero effect on male fertility. However, the studies completed so far are minimal- there wasn’t a large sample size, and few additional studies show the same results. For the most part, all human bodies work the same way, but there are smaller biological differences from person to person. Even if these small studies show no correlation between fertility and sauna use, it could affect specific individuals differently. Continue reading to learn more about what’s currently know about male fertility with sauna use!

What We Know about Sauna Effects on Male Fertility

Man Sitting in a Sauna

Some scientific studies have shown zero correlation to sauna use with decreased male fertility, but another popular study did show a decrease in sperm count and activity immediately after sauna use. This isn’t a firm foundation to make any conclusions on though; the study only had 10 participants, and there was no short or long-term follow-up. So, while this study demonstrated reduced sperm count after sauna use, that isn’t a reflection on overall fertility or sperm health.

Actually, it makes a certain amount of sense that the high heat of the sauna may reduce sperm count temporarily as the body shifts resources elsewhere to respond to the high heat, but the other benefits of sauna use may slingshot these numbers back after the body has recovered. The additional blood flow and circulation may have a positive effect on sperm count over time. There’s no study proving this, but it’s at least as fair to assume this as to assume the reverse: that sauna use damages sperm or reduces fertility.

So, when it comes to studies and literature proving an effect here, there’s nothing compelling one way or the other. There is room to interpret the data either way. If you’re trying to conceive and experience difficulties, and suspect sauna use-related-sperm effects, you can certainly back off the sauna use to just minimize the number of variables in play, but there’s no definitive answer here yet.

Other Things to Cut Out if You’re Having Trouble Conceiving

If you’re getting stressed because you are having trouble getting your partner pregnant, you should seek a fertility expert to help. In the meantime, you can start to make some changes to your daily lifestyle to increase your sperm count and sperm health. Besides nixing your wonderful and relaxing sauna visits, try making changes in the following areas: 

  • Reduce alcohol consumption— Too much alcohol consumption has been shown to interface with sperm development. It raises estrogen levels and dehydrates you, which is not ideal for sperm production.
  • Reduce caffeine intake— Caffeine might affect sperm count, like sauna-use the research is not clear. Try lowering your intake just in case. 
  • Stop smoking— Smoking cigarettes, cigars, and marijuana have all been correlated to decreased sperm count (it also negatively affects women’s fertility.)
  • Avoid hot tubs— Hot tubs should be avoided for the same reason as saunas- testicles are sensitive to heat, and cool testicles may produce healthier sperm. 
  • Wear loose-fitting underwear— Constricting underwear, like briefs, increases the temperature of the testicles. 
  • Do stress-reducing activities— Yes, stress can negatively impact your sperm count. But don’t stress about it! Exercise, read, go for a hike, or do whatever relaxes you (well, besides the sauna) to reduce your stress. 

Sauna Use While Pregnant

Pregnant Woman Relaxing in Sauna

Like male fertility and sauna visits, the data is unclear whether or not sauna use is harmful while pregnant. Of course, 99.9% of OBGYNs will recommend you NOT visit a sauna while pregnant, which is probably best to stay on the safe side. After all, you don’t want to harm your unborn child accidentally. 

With that stated, there have been no formal studies down to test the correlation between sauna use and its effects on pregnancy. Why not? Well, it has to do with ethical reasons. If fetuses were harmed as a result of such a study, that would be a horrendous outcome. As such, these types of studies are not done to adhere to the “do no harm” mantra of the medical community.  

With that being said, there was a small study that showed that healthy pregnant women with healthy fetuses could visit the sauna safely throughout their pregnancy. The study measured fetal heart rate, the hormonal response of the mother, and the mothers’ reactions to the sauna’s thermal stress. 

The pregnant women all responded well to the thermal stress. However, their hormonal responses changed. Additionally, the fetal heart rates increased (which is a typical response to increased heat), and after the sauna, the fetal heart rates returned to normal. Again, this study was small and only had pregnant women complete short sauna sessions. 

Unlike the relationship between sauna use and hair loss which we’ve talked about before, there is no data about whether or not a sauna visit that is too long or too hot could harm the fetus. Therefore, it is best to avoid the sauna (and hot tubs and other things that tax your body) altogether while pregnant to prevent even the slightest possibility that it could harm your unborn child. Stopping sauna use removes one less variable from the equation of “things that can harm your baby.”

The Bottom Line On Sauna Use and Fertility 

The scientific data remains unclear and it comes with mixed results on whether sauna use negatively affects fertility. Samples sizes are small, and various studies conflict with one another. Since there is no concrete answer to whether or not saunas are harmful if you’re trying to get pregnant, you should avoid them. Not visiting the sauna while you’re trying to conceive entirely removes one variable that might have a chance of reducing fertility. 

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