These days, most of us spend a big chunk of our time with a cell phone glued to our ear or our eyes glued to a smartphone. Aside from the obvious questions of what constant screen time is doing to our communication skills, patience, and attention spans, we must ask what impact these little devices may have on our physical health, including fertility. Could your treasured phone be interfering with your dreams of being a parent?
Cell Phones and Female Infertility
For years, scientists have been researching the effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) on human health. EMR is all around us. It comes in low doses from household appliances and electronics, such as TVs, laptops, and microwaves, and in higher doses from sources like medical X-rays. And yes, EMR comes from our beloved cell phones. Studies have searched for — and found — links between different EMR sources and various health conditions, such as cancers, headaches, and fertility problems. It is clear that dangerously high and frequent EMR exposure does cause a host of health problems, but what about lower doses from, say, playing Angry Birds for two hours on your phone, or being stuck on a four-hour conference call without a Bluetooth?
As scary as it may be to consider that such things could affect female fertility, the fact is we just don't know yet. And the reason we don't know is that our current level of electronics use is unprecedented. Never before have we used such devices as frequently or for as long as we do now. Since no previous generation has had such sustained, close exposure to this specific type of EMR before, we don't have years of data to examine. Essentially, medical research hasn't caught up with the technology, but you can probably expect an outpouring of information on this topic over the coming years.
While there has been no strong evidence to date that cell phone radiation reduces female fertility, we do know there is a clear link between cell phone radiation and decreased sperm count and sperm motility because more research has been done on this aspect of the topic. Men should not carry phones in their front pockets or on belt loops, especially while the device is in use via a Bluetooth device, because the radiation is a little too close for comfort. Fertility experts believe male fertility may be more susceptible to damage from cell phone EMR because the male testicles are not as far inside the body as the female ovaries, and thus don't have as much protection from low-dose radiation.
The lack of conclusive evidence on cell phones and female infertility doesn't mean there's no effect — just that we aren't sure what the effects are. Women who are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant should do their best to minimize and avoid EMR to be safe. Many doctors recommend going hands-free when using cell phones to reduce radiation exposure and protect the body as a whole.
How Can I Protect Myself?
As research continues, we will learn more about how our devices impact our health, but in the meantime we can be smarter about how we use our smartphones. Cell phones emit the highest EMR when they are transmitting, so when possible, use your phone in hands-free mode, either with the speaker or a Bluetooth device. Keep it at arm's length, if possible, not on your lap or in a pocket, to minimize exposure. You can also carry your phone in a handbag rather than in a pocket to keep the phone off the body as much as possible. Try decreasing screen time from phones, laptops, tablets, and e-readers to limit the amount of daily exposure to EMR. Finally, take the cell phone off the bedside stand at night or turn it off; phones emit low levels of EMR whenever they're on.