“So here’s what we’re doing,” we would say at parties. “We’re researching cooling devices and the male…anatomy…in order to create comfortable underwear that will chill your balls.”
This was a conversation starter, to put it mildly. Several months later, when an unsuspecting lunch guest caught us in the kitchen holding freezer bags to the fronts of our pants, we were already convinced that we were onto something big. The lunch guest had her doubts.
Male infertility accounts for roughly 40% of all infertility, but it’s still tough to sound cool when talking about it. That’s why we loved the name we had dreamed up for our still-imaginary product: Snowballs! Some thought it was insensitive, or inappropriate, but for us it was just a punch line for a story we were dying to tell. You see, we had both been through the “fertility factory” with our wives, losing our money and our minds until we began to look more closely at the actual causes of infertility…and became obsessed by heat.
They ignored his advice and saw another doctor, and then another, until finally one gynecologist took the time to sit down with them and listen carefully. Almost immediately, he had a new plan. First, T should begin icing his balls. Huh? And then he should have himself tested for a varicocele. Again, huh? It was T and his wife who really provided the breakthrough. It had been a painful year. There had been a silent miscarriage after two years of trying, and the best doctor that money could buy had said that their chances were now zero. Think about adoption. Think about overpopulation.But they went home that day thinking, Why not? They had tried just about everything else. And so they began to do some research (see our FAQ section for more on what we found). Elevated scrotal temperature was perhaps the number one cause of male infertility. How had they missed this? And 15-20% of all men had a varicocele, or enlarged vein in the scrotum, which brought more blood and raised scrotal temperatures.
It made sense, so T began to ice…
And B was born about a year later…
And you should really see her smile.
Here are some animated versions of us:
A Brief History of Scrotal Cooling
Since the mid-Sixties, scientists have been aware that scrotal cooling could improve male fertility, but no controlled tests were done until the mid-Eighties, when the advantages of cooling were first clinically shown. Now, with an increasing number of studies confirming its effectiveness, some of the world's best fertility specialists are beginning to prescribe icing.
We know now that the testes of men with fertility problems tend to be naturally warmer by an average of over one degree Celsius, which is significant in this delicate science. We also know that if we can lower scrotal temperature on a consistent basis, fertility will improve. (See our FAQ section for more details on the science).
We found that the most frustrating aspect of playing fertility roulette was the loss of control. There was something wrong, but nobody was sure exactly what. Doctors were looking at us under microscopes and seeing things we would never see (and these were wonderful, competent doctors). It didn't feel as if we were in control.
Then, when a last doctor mentioned scrotal cooling and varicoceles, we began to do research on something that actually made intuitive sense (see our FAQ section for some of what we learned). That’s when we began to get excited. We were no longer under the microscope all the time. We were men, and we fixed things.
And didn’t it make sense that if higher temperatures damaged sperm, then we could rig up a way to cool our…balls? We were taking the vitamin supplements and limiting the booze, and surely that was all helping, but didn’t it make sense to directly treat the part of the body with the problem?
Of course it made sense. We would never replace our doctors, but science was on our side too, and most importantly: we were back in control.
More and more, studies are showing the effectiveness of scrotal cooling. See our FAQ section for a more in-depth look at the science, but here’s a brief overview of a few studies:
- In a study by Mulcahy (1984), fifty men with reduced sperm motility applied ice packs to the scrotum at night. After treatment, both sperm density and sperm motility had at least doubled in 65 percent of the patients. Mulcahy JJ, ‘Scrotal hypothermia and the infertile man.’ Journal of Urology, 132/3 (1984), pp. 469-70
- Jung et al (2005) found a significant increase in both sperm concentration and total sperm count as a result of nocturnal scrotal cooling. For twelve weeks, twenty infertile men used a cooling technique every night, and significant change had taken place by eight weeks. Jung, A., Schill, W. -B., Schuppe, H. -C., ‘Improvement of semen quality by nocturnal scrotal cooling in oligozoospermic men with a history of testicular maldescent.’ International Journal of Andrology, vol. 28/2 (2005), pp. 93-98
- Zorgniotti and Sealfon (1988) measured scrotal temperatures in 300 sub fertile men and 30 control men. They found a statistically significant difference in temperature between the two groups (1.35 degrees Celsius), suggesting that ‘small intrinsic temperature increases may interfere with the ability of the testis to accommodate to environmental temperature stresses and so lead to abnormal semen and sub fertility.’ Zorgniotti, A. W., Sealfon, A. I., ‘Measurement of intrascrotal temperature in normal and subfertile men.’ Journals of Reproduction and Fertility, vol. 82 (1988), pp. 563-66
- Laven et al (1988) studied 56 men from infertile couples. The men were categorized into two groups named ‘cool workers/sleepers’ and ‘warm workers/sleepers’ according to whether or not there was evidence of extra scrotal insulation in their lifestyles. They found a greater number of good moving sperm in the ‘cool workers/sleepers’ group, both per ejaculation and per ml. Laven, J. S., Haverkorn, M. J., Bots, R.S., ‘Influence of occupation and living habits on semen quality in men (scrotal insulation and semen quality).’ Eur. J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol., vol. 29/2 (1988), pp. 137-41
A Miracle Cure?
We believe in miracles, but don’t count on Snowballs to work “miracles”. They should increase both sperm quality and quantity, and they should give you a better chance to conceive at minimal cost, but fertility science is complex, and you’ll also want to consult with a urologist (for varicoceles), as well as your fertility specialist. Snowballs may end up being just a supplemental treatment for you. It can’t hurt, and it will likely help. At the same time, do your own research (see our FAQ section for more) and think for yourself. IUI and IVF didn’t work for us, and we met several world-class doctors before one suggested that scrotal temperature might be the problem. People said we were crazy to ice ourselves. We looked desperate to our friends. But in our case, cooling worked, and although every case is different, it is our fervent hope that it works for you too.