A man’s sperm count. One of the most misunderstood tests in all of medicine. Like naming stars in the sky to help order the universe, we assign “normal” ranges to the features of semen because we can. Unfortunately, except when there are no sperm in the semen (azoopermia) its power to predict male fertility is terrible. Given the choice, I’d take a past history of paternity over a semen analysis any day as a better predictor of a man’s fertility. But what do I know, I only do this for a living.
The Semen Analysis
In its most proper form, the semen analysis is collected at home or in a urologist’s office and evaluated in a certified medical laboratory, according to published standards. The amount of semen (volume), sperm count or concentration and the proportion of moving sperm (motility) are all rigorously assessed. When done right, the natural day-to-day variation in semen output and quality are minimized. But…you have to visit a urologist or hospital for this, and deal with the scheduling and embarrassment. And there’s the rub.
Home Male Fertility Kits
At-home fertility kits for men are not new. Dr Robert Glass at UCSF was working on this in the early 90’s before I arrived there. In the mid 2000’s, a kit called Fertell, quite popular in Europe, was introduced into the U.S., but bombed. Who knows why. Today, there are three kits battling it out in the market:
- Micra Sperm Test: allows you to look at your own semen under a disposable microscope and do the counting yourself.
- SpermCheck Fertility Check: assesses whether sperm counts are normal but does not look at sperm movement.
- Spermeter: tests the count and motility of sperm.
For those skeptical about their partners or kids, there are even at-home kits to determine whether fluids or stains around the house or on clothing are actually semen:
Reactions to Home Male Fertility Kits
Personally, I like the idea of home sperm tests. Currently, in infertility medicine, the semen analysis is typically done only after an intensive (and expensive) evaluation of female fertility is performed. Given that male fertility is 30% of the problem, this seems too little and too late for me. But, what do men think of these tests? Here are some responses:
“I didn’t sign up for this when I was assigned testicles.”
“Give me the peace and quiet of the doctor’s office to my house anyday!”
“This could develop into the All-American pastime.”
“It will be a welcome change from counting sheep.”
“I’ll probably need to take repeated tests to ensure accuracy.”
The Ultimate Collection Room
Although it is no substitute for the real-deal semen analysis, home sperm kits may get men to real medical care earlier than they would otherwise. And to confirm the at-home findings, they would get the opportunity to collect in famous rooms such as ours, termed the masterbatorium and highlighted by Metropolis Magazine. This room has even inspired a play that has toured the west coast called “Sperm Warfare.” Come check it out… by appointment of course