To Do List: Pick Up Milk, Bread, Sperm Test

Filed under: In The News, Infertility

Men may soon be able to check their sperm count in the comfort of their own homes. Credit: Jung Yeon-Je, AFP / Getty Images

Cold exam rooms and Playboy magazines may not be the only route to male fertility testing for long. A new home test that checks a man's sperm count soon will be available in Europe, and is currently awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration that would allow it to be sold in the United States.

The test, SpermCheck Fertility, targets couples who have been trying to conceive for a few months, and is recommended as a first step for men looking to evaluate their fertility status, to help determine if professional medical attention is needed.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, infertility affects about 7.3 million women and their partners in the United States -- about 12 percent of the reproduction-age population -- yet fertility testing can be timely, costly and take an emotional toll on both partners. For these reasons, a low-cost, in-home test could be a breakthrough solution for many couples.

Dr. John C. Herr of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who helped developed the test, tells Reuters Health the test helps couples sort out if there is a male factor in the infertility, "and do that in privacy with some cost savings."

"The product will retail for about $25," he tells the news service. "That's a lot cheaper than going in and having a full semen analysis." Herr adds, depending where you are in the country, semen analysis can cost from around $65 to $250, and may or may not be covered by insurance.

According to the manufacturer's Web site, SpermCheck Fertility works like a home pregnancy test, and provides greater than 95 percent accuracy in reporting sperm count levels, as measured by World Health Organization standards.

To use the test, you let the semen rest for 20 minutes, collect 100 microliters using a pipette and mix the semen with a substance that releases a protein called SP-10 from the sperm, which is what the test measures. You then put a few drops of the mixture into the two sample wells in the test, and results appear in the test windows within seven minutes.

The test generates a status of fertile, sub-fertile or infertile. Subfertility is a count of 2 to 20 million sperm per milliliter, while infertility means sperm count levels below 2 million sperm per milliliter, and usually indicates there is a fertility-associated health problem, according to the Mayo Clinic's Web site. About 20 percent of infertility cases in couples are said to involve the male partner, and most cases of male infertility are due to problems with sperm, with a low sperm count being the most common.

The manufacturer advises that there are a number of factors that can affect sperm count, including diet, lack of sleep and frequency of sex prior to the test. It suggests that men who receive subfertile or infertile results and fall into these categories should retake the test after a few days. However, sperm count is just one factor in male fertility, and so it is advised that men should always consult their doctor with continuing infertility concerns, regardless of home test results.

To learn more about male infertility, visit the infertility section on Mayo Clinic's Web site, and on the FDA Web site.

Related: Superwoman Workouts May Affect Fertility

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