How exposure to cell phones and other technology affects reproductive health

Wireless devices like cell phones, Wi-Fi and other communication technologies release radiofrequency radiation that can harm the human body.

In both human and animal studies, exposure to radiofrequency radiation emitted from wireless devices is absorbed by the body and can harm the reproductive system. (See table below.) The effects show up in studies at a wide range of frequencies – 800 megahertz to 2.45 gigahertz – in both male and female reproductive systems. How much harm the exposure causes depends on the frequency of exposure. The extent of harm is also influenced by the length of exposure, though a recent meta-analysis shows it’s not clear how much of a role that factor plays.1

Many parts of the reproductive system are sensitive to radiofrequency radiation. Research on laboratory animals suggests it can increase the risk of abnormal fetal development, affect hormone levels and decrease ovulation,2 which may increase the risk for female infertility. Animal studies also show radiofrequency radiation can interfere with estrogen production, damage the lining of the uterus and developing egg cells, and cause changes to the heart of the developing fetus.3

Radiofrequency radiation exposure can harm male fertility, too, by decreasing sperm quality (motility, viability, and levels),4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 changing sperm form and structure10, 11, 12 and changing hormone levels in the testis.10, 13, 14, 15, 16

Exactly how radiofrequency radiation affects reproductive health isn’t completely clear. We do know radiofrequency radiation increases the production of reactive oxygen species and leads to changes in intracellular enzymes, changes in gene expression, and nuclear DNA damage. Sperm cells are particularly susceptible to damage from free radicals that can be generated from radiofrequency radiation exposure, since they lack the protective antioxidants typical of other cells in the body.17, 18, 19

Changes to reproductive health because of radiofrequency radiation

Effects on fetal development


Part of body affected

Research findings

Changes in fetal heart function

Exposure to radiofrequency radiation during pregnancy is associated with increased fetal and newborn heart rate and decreased fetal cardiac output.3

Changes in hormone levels

Prenatal exposure to radiofrequency radiation in laboratory mice was associated with lower levels of testosterone and behavioral anomalies.20

Effects on the female reproductive system


Decreased number of ovarian follicles

The number of follicles in female laboratory rats went down significantly after they were exposed to radiofrequency radiation.21, 22

Structural changes of oocytes

Changes to ovary cells have been associated with radiofrequency radiation exposure in laboratory rats. 23

Degeneration of the ovarian follicles

Prenatal exposure to radiofrequency radiation in laboratory rats was associated with follicle degeneration and structural changes of ovary cells that produce estrogen. 22

Damage to endometrial tissue

Exposure to radiofrequency radiation from cell phones was associated with the death of the uterine lining in laboratory rats.24

Changes in reproductive hormone levels

Lower levels of the hormones prolactin, estrogen and progesterone were observed in pregnant rats exposed to radiofrequency radiation.25

Effects on the male reproductive system


Decreased sperm quality

Exposure to radiofrequency radiation is associated in human studies with lower sperm concentration, viability, and motility.4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Evidence of the effects of radiofrequency radiation exposure on sperm quality has also been observed in animal studies.26, 27

Changes in sperm cell form and structure

The sperm cells of cell phone users were abnormally formed, compared to people who don’t use cell phones.10

In animal studies, sperm “heads” show more abnormalities after radiofrequency radiation, compared to sperm heads in unexposed animals.11, 12

Changes in reproductive hormone levels

Cell phone users have higher concentrations of testosterone and lower concentrations of luteinizing hormone that controls the production of sperm cells, compared to people who don’t use cell phones.10, 13

In animal studies, changes in the concentration of testosterone, luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone in serum or in testicular samples have also been linked to exposure to radiofrequency radiation. 14, 15, 16

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1 Kim, S., et al., Effects of mobile phone usage on sperm quality–No time-dependent relationship on usage: A systematic review and updated meta-analysis. Environmental Research, 2021. 202: p. 111784.

2 Merhi, Z.O., Challenging cell phone impact on reproduction: a review. Journal of assisted reproduction and genetics, 2012. 29(4): p. 293-297.

3 Rezk, A.Y., et al., Fetal and neonatal responses following maternal exposure to mobile phones. Saudi medical journal, 2008. 29(2): p. 218.

4 Ding, S.-S., S. Ping, and T. Hong, Association between daily exposure to electromagnetic radiation from 4G smartphone and 2.45-GHz wi-fi and oxidative damage to semen of males attending a genetics clinic: a primary study. Int J Clin Exp Med, 2018. 11(3): p. 2821-2830.

5 Agarwal, A., et al., Effect of cell phone usage on semen analysis in men attending infertility clinic: an observational study. Fertility and sterility, 2008. 89(1): p. 124-128.

6 Al-Bayyari, N., The effect of cell phone usage on semen quality and fertility among Jordanian males. Middle East Fertility Society Journal, 2017. 22(3): p. 178-182.

7 Fejes, I., et al., Is there a relationship between cell phone use and semen quality? Archives of andrology, 2005. 51(5): p. 385-393.

8 Wdowiak, A., L. Wdowiak, and H. Wiktor, Evaluation of the effect of using mobile phones on male fertility. Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine, 2007. 14(1).

9 Zhang, S., et al., Effects of mobile phone use on semen parameters: a cross-sectional study of 1634 men in China. Reproduction, Fertility and Development, 2022.

10 Gutschi, T., et al., Impact of cell phone use on men’s semen parameters. Andrologia, 2011. 43(5): p. 312-316.

11 Otitoloju, A., et al., Preliminary study on the induction of sperm head abnormalities in mice, Mus musculus, exposed to radiofrequency radiations from global system for mobile communication base stations. Bulletin of environmental contamination and toxicology, 2010. 84(1): p. 51-54.

12 Dasdag, S., et al., Effect of long-term exposure of 2.4 GHz radiofrequency radiation emitted from Wi-Fi equipment on testes functions. Electromagnetic biology and medicine, 2015. 34(1): p. 37-42.

13 Wang, Z., et al., Effects of electromagnetic fields exposure on plasma hormonal and inflammatory pathway biomarkers in male workers of a power plant. International archives of occupational and environmental health, 2016. 89(1): p. 33-42.

14 Forgacs, Z., et al., Effect of whole-body 1800 MHz GSM-like microwave exposure on testicular steroidogenesis and histology in mice. Reproductive Toxicology, 2006. 22(1): p. 111-117.

15 Oyewopo, A., et al., Radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation from cell phone causes defective testicular function in male Wistar rats. Andrologia, 2017. 49(10): p. e12772.

16 Kesari, K.K. and J. Behari, Evidence for mobile phone radiation exposure effects on reproductive pattern of male rats: role of ROS. Electromagnetic biology and medicine, 2012. 31(3): p. 213-222.

17 De Iuliis, G.N., et al., Mobile phone radiation induces reactive oxygen species production and DNA damage in human spermatozoa in vitro. PloS one, 2009. 4(7): p. e6446.

18 Aitken, R.J., P. Koopman, and S.E. Lewis, Seeds of concern. Nature, 2004. 432(7013): p. 48-52.

19 Santini, S.J., et al., Role of mitochondria in the oxidative stress induced by electromagnetic fields: focus on reproductive systems. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2018. 2018.

20 Aldad, T.S., et al., Fetal radiofrequency radiation exposure from 800-1900 mhz-rated cellular telephones affects neurodevelopment and behavior in mice. Scientific Reports, 2012. 2(1): p. 1-8.

21 Gul, A., H. Çelebi, and S. Uğraş, The effects of microwave emitted by cellular phones on ovarian follicles in rats. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 2009. 280(5): p. 729-733.

22 Türedi, S., et al., Disruption of the ovarian follicle reservoir of prepubertal rats following prenatal exposure to a continuous 900-MHz electromagnetic field. International journal of radiation biology, 2016. 92(6): p. 329-337.

23 Roushangar, L. and J.S. Rad, Ultrastructural alterations and occurrence of apoptosis in developing follicles exposed to low frequency electromagnetic field in rat ovary. Pakistan journal of biological sciences: PJBS, 2007. 10(24): p. 4413-4419.

24 Oral, B., et al., Endometrial apoptosis induced by a 900-MHz mobile phone: preventive effects of vitamins E and C. Advances in therapy, 2006. 23(6): p. 957-973.

25 Yüksel, M., M. Nazıroğlu, and M.O. Özkaya, Long-term exposure to electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones and Wi-Fi devices decreases plasma prolactin, progesterone, and estrogen levels but increases uterine oxidative stress in pregnant rats and their offspring. Endocrine, 2016. 52(2): p. 352-362.

26 Mailankot, M., et al., Radio frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) from GSM (0.9/1.8 GHz) mobile phones induces oxidative stress and reduces sperm motility in rats. Clinics, 2009. 64(6): p. 561-565.

27 Kesari, K.K., S. Kumar, and J. Behari, Mobile phone usage and male infertility in Wistar rats. 2010.

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