Semen quality can be affected by an interplay of different parameters that lead to variability in the quality within a single individual. Variables such as season of the year, BMI, smoking, the age of the donor, and the time since last ejaculation, known as abstinence time, can affect semen quality on a day-to-day basis. Improvement of semen quality among infertile males in fertility treatment, cancer patients wanting to deposit before treatment therapy, or sperm donors, as with Cryos, is of great interest and a major topic in the field of research that we would like to contribute to.
Previous research (Pound et al. 2002) has shown that the type and intensity of erotic material presented during masturbation can influence semen parameters. VR can provide a more immersive experience to the user – however, the use of VR headsets to present erotica has not previously been studied in this context. With the introduction of VR headsets in the donor cabins at Cryos, we reasoned that semen parameters of the donors’ ejaculates may be altered.
Approach and methodology
The study took place at all four Cryos locations in Denmark: Aarhus, Odense, Aalborg, and Copenhagen, and included 504 ejaculates from 63 consenting sperm donors. All study participants would produce ejaculates either with or without the use of VR during each donation. During masturbation each donor was instructed to observe erotic material either on a touch screen monitor or using a VR headset. The order of each pair of within-subject treatments was randomized by the throw of a dice before donating.
Main results showed that both the abstinence time and use of VR influenced the total number of motile sperm cells in the ejaculate. The level of motile sperms is an important parameter when evaluating male fertility, as the sperms need to be motile to fertilize an egg with IUI or ICI. The results indicate that when there is less than 24 hours between ejaculations, the level of motile sperms in the semen increases.
This is an interesting finding that shows a clear advantage of the use of VR during sperm collection in a clinical setting. Thus, we found an increased sperm count of almost 50%, on average, at the shortest abstinence period that we studied (14 hours) and would expect an even greater effect at even shorter periods of abstinence. In a broader perspective, we suggest that the use of VR could improve the ejaculate quality of not only sperm donors but males producing samples for fertility treatment or sperm storage before beginning cancer treatment.