Study looks at boxer shorts versus underpants and sperm count

Wearing boxer shorts could help conception

Wearing looser underpants could be a simple way for men to improve their sperm count and the hormones that control it, a United States study suggests.

Harvard University researchers have done the most comprehensive study to date into the effect of underwear on sperm quality and found that the tighter the garment the lower the sperm count and concentration.

In addition, analysis of blood samples collected from 304 of the study participants showed that men who wore boxers had 14 percent lower levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) compared with men who didn't wear boxers.

They also had 17 percent higher sperm count and 33 percent more swimming sperm in a single ejaculate.

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Some styles of underpants, such as jockey shorts or briefs, bring the scrotum nearer to the body, causing the testicles to warm up, while others, such as boxer shorts, are looser and cooler.

The team of USA researchers examined data on 656 men who were part of couples seeking treatment at a fertility centre in America between 2000 and 2017.

A researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the study's lead author said in a press release, "These results point to a relatively easy change that men can make when they and their partners are seeking to become pregnant".

"Because of this, we were able to find a potential compensatory mechanism whereby decreased sperm production relating to the type of underwear signals to the hypothalamus to increase secretion of gonadotropin [s], [hormones that act] on the testes and that is reflected by the increased levels of FSH, to try to increase sperm production".

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Firty-three percent of the men said they usually wore boxers.

However, researchers noted that none of the sperm counts measured were below the normal range, implying that underwear is not a major factor in pregnancy.

Although the men were attending hospital for fertility treatment, the researchers say most had good semen quality when compared to the World Health Organization's reference standards, and so the findings could be useful for all men.

Men who wore boxers also had higher percentages of motile sperm or sperm that are capable of moving through the female reproductive system and fertilizing an egg.

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