Mumps and swelling of the testes—Affect fertility?

Dear Alice,

I have a question about mumps: I had mumps while I was thirteen-years-old. I remembered that because of embarrassment. I was afraid to tell my parents about the inflammation (swelling of the testicles) at the same time I had mumps. I did not have treatment for the swelling of my testicles due to mumps. Later, the swelling went away about the same time as my mumps. Although I still can produce semen, I am deeply disturbed whether that swelling could have hindered my fertility (i.e., no production of sperm due to the blockage of the sperm channels).

—Concerned about the future

Dear Concerned about the future, 

Kudos to you for thinking ahead about your fertility. Rest assured that only in extremely rare cases can mumps-induced inflammation be severe enough to damage sperm health and fertility. 

It might help to get started with a review of mumps. Mumps is a severe viral illness that usually occurs in childhood and early adolescence. It primarily causes inflammation and swelling of the salivary glands. However, in people with testes, mumps can also cause inflammation and swelling in one or both testes, like it did for you. This condition is called orchitis and it develops in approximately 20 to 25 percent of people with testes. Orchitis usually affects one side, making it tender and painful for about two to four days, and potentially resulting in shrinkage of the affected testis to smaller than normal size.  

Male infertility can be due to a range of possible causes including but not limited to low sperm production, abnormal sperm function, illness, injury, chronic health conditions, or lifestyle choices. In the case of orchitis, the condition doesn't always affect both testes, in which case fertility is less likely to be impacted. But, if both testicles are affected, then there is a 10 to 30 percent chance of a decline in fertility because of testicular atrophy—shrinking of the testicles—and lower sperm production. Although orchitis alone rarely leads to complete infertility, it can contribute to it. 

To ease any concerns you may have about infertility, you might consider getting a semen analysis to give your swimmers a check-up. This test will determine the number, shape, and degree of motility (ability to move around) of your sperm. If your test results show cause for concern, you may be referred to a fertility specialist for further analysis.  

Hoping your future goes swimmingly, 

Last updated May 19, 2023
Originally published Mar 23, 1995

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