Coming home in the evenings, Scott Reed would spend several hours on his laptop.
But what he and his wife Laura, of Redwing Road, Clanfield, did not realise was that this was hindering their chances of having a baby.
Having the hot appliance on his lap was causing heat damage to electrician Scott’s sperm.
After trying for six months to have a baby and not having any success, the couple visited their GP.
Laura, 30, says: ‘Scott and I have been together since we were 17.
‘We decided to get married and buy a house before we tried for a baby.
‘About six months after we started trying I was getting frustrated and mentioned it to my doctor.
‘You don’t think it will be that hard to get pregnant.
‘We both went back to have a chat and the doctor put Scott forward for a fertility test.’
Usually couples need to have tried for a year before being referred.
But Scott, 30, had suffered from mumps at the age of 21, which could have affected his fertility.
So in October 2010 the couple were referred to the andrology department of the pathology unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital – where Laura works.
‘It was a bit embarrassing at first because people didn’t realise we had come in to be tested,’ she says.
‘But we were given an explanation of what would happen and that Scott would need to provide an example.’
Andrology is the study of male reproduction and the unit is based on level 3 at QA.
Scott says: ‘Because I had the mumps I needed to get tested.
‘There is a concern they will find something, but then we wanted a baby so we had to find out.
‘I didn’t think about the worst-case scenario and just had to get on with it.
‘I did find it a little embarrassing, but possibly more so because Laura works in the pathology lab.
‘After I gave the sample we had to wait and see what was said.’
The results came back, which found Scott’s sperm had been heat-damaged.
Laura says: ‘The first thing we were asked is whether Scott worked as a chef because of the damage.
‘Then we were asked if he uses a laptop or not, which he did.
‘In the evenings Scott would have the laptop on while we were watching television.
‘He would use it for work and general things like Facebook.
‘We had no idea the damage it was causing.
‘There wasn’t anything else wrong with him.’
Since then Scott makes sure he places his laptop either beside him or on a table.
‘I am quite active and healthy,’ adds Scott.
‘When we started trying for a baby we cut back on takeaways – not that we had many – and eating better.
‘I also do muay Thai, a form of Thai boxing.
‘I never thought using a laptop would affect the quality of my sperm.
‘After asking if I was a chef, the next thing was “do you use a laptop?”
‘I was using it daily and hadn’t given it a second thought. It was quite shocking really.’
Today is the start of National Pathology Week, and under pathology comes the andrology.
Biomedical andrologist Sue Kenworthy has worked at QA for six years and been a professional in the field for 20 years.
She explains: ‘Scott had been producing a healthy amount of sperm.
‘Looking under a microscope I saw that there was heat damage.
‘Scott was using his laptop every day and for a few hours.
‘It would get really hot, which would have an effect on his sperm.
‘This showed up under the microscope. The tail of the sperm had coiled around the head.
‘This means it can’t swim quickly and get to the egg.
‘I would say men should place the laptop on a table, rather than on their lap, as this can make a difference.
‘Diet and lifestyle are important factors too.’
Three months after the test Laura became pregnant.
She says: ‘We carried on trying and we weren’t having any luck.
‘So we visited friends in Thailand and had a lovely time.
‘We thought it’s not working to get pregnant, so we started planning a trip to travel around that area.
‘But then I did a test and found out I was expecting.’
Ten-month-old Taryn was born on December 8 last year.
Proud parent Scott is now encouraging men to not be shy if they think there might be a problem.
He says: ‘Anything to do with genitals, and generally men clam up and don’t want to talk about it.
‘If I could impart any advice to couples, then it’s to say relax.
‘We had built up pressure and saw everyone around us were having children. And if you are worried there is a problem, then don’t keep it to yourself.
‘Don’t be scared of going through the process. I wanted children and so I got tested.
‘Everyone in the department was friendly and really helpful.
‘There was no tittering and it wasn’t that embarrassing.’
Simple lifestyle changes can help couples have a family, says expert
A GOOD diet and healthy lifestyle can help men to produce better sperm.
That’s the advice being given by Sue Kenworthy, a biomedical andrologist, who works at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham.
Inside the pathology department is the andrology lab, which looks at male reproduction.
Sue says: ‘Rather than just checking samples, we offer a clinic service, which is a very different approach compared to other hospitals.
‘We take a more holistic, patient-centred approach and ask questions about the man’s diet, lifestyle and habits.
‘Normally the sample results go back to the GP, who then has to explain what the problem could be.
‘But at QA we have a clinic service, so we can interpret the results with the patients.’
Sue, who has worked as a biomedical andrologist at QA for six years, said that heat-damaged sperm can slow down the conceiving process.
And also having too much sex may not help.
‘It takes 72 days for sperm to mature,’ adds Sue.
‘It takes 40 hours for sperm to be replenished.
‘The testicles are like a factory.
‘If you’re not giving it enough time to mature, then the man will end up with inactive sperm.
‘Taking hot baths or using saunas, or having the laptop on your lap for long periods of time can also damage the sperm.
‘Healthy sperm will have a head and tail and should swim quickly in a linear fashion.
‘But with heat-damaged sperm, you can see the tail is coiled around the head.
‘This means the sperm will move in circles or be sluggish and won’t get to the egg quick enough.
‘We also look at the pH levels, the shape and size of the sperm and any abnormalities.’
Once a sample has been given, it must be checked within the first hour, as that is when the sperm is active.
Couples trying for a baby should stop smoking, drink alcohol in moderation and stick to a healthy diet.
Sue says: ‘Diet and nutrition is important.
‘Stopping smoking, eating healthily – such as a diet with oily fish – and reducing alcohol intake can help couples struggling to conceive.’
Sue encourages people concerned about conceiving to visit the department.
‘Making these lifestyle changes could really help,’ she adds.
‘If people are worried about fertility, then they should come and see us.
‘We are here to help.
‘It can be quite daunting, but we are professional and friendly.
‘We are not here to tell people off, but try and help them with advice and guidance.’
People should go to their GP for a referral to the department.