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Houston Fertility Center

Dear Valentine: Would You Take An At-Home Sperm Test?

By Sonja Kristiansen, MD on February 14, 2012


Okay, it's not really the most romantic idea, so you may want to wait until a day or two later to ask, but getting your guy in on the diagnostic testing is a crucial piece of the infertility puzzle.

And now, he'll be able to test his sperm count at home. It's not the first product of its kind, but starting in April, it could be the only one on shelves of big drugstores like Walgreens and CVS, and it appears to be simpler to use. According to this article on Bloomberg.com, the makers are counting on "women dropping an extra $40 for the test when they buy ovulation and pregnancy kits for themselves."

Great idea, since it's true that most men aren't eager to jump with both feet into the fertility diagnostic effort. It's hard to blame them. But proceeding with fertility treatment having only searched for causes in the woman is like, well, getting a half-filled box of chocolates.

Still, $40 seems like a lot to drop on something that only gives you part of the picture anyway. Like its predecessors, SpermCheck Fertility tells you whether or not the sperm count is 20 million or more per millileter of semen, which is considered normal. That's all.

The test doesn't give users any information on the extremely important factors of morphology (sperm cell shape) or motility (movement), both of which can make or break a guy's capacity to play Cupid to your Valentine.

For just a slightly higher fee, you can get the whole big picture -- count, shape, and movement of the sperm cells -- and have a laboratory professional do the reading. (Do I get patient calls like this: "Dr. Kristiansen, I can't tell if I see a line on this OPK..."? Yes, I do.)

So, I can't advise you on whether or not to spend your money on this product, but if you do and find out that he's "normal" -- but you still don't get pregnant -- I *can* tell you that your continuing infertility is not necessarily, therefore, all on your shoulders. It's not uncommon to have a great sperm count but with a high percentage of cells that don't function well.

Fortunately, reproductive endocrinologists (like me) have plenty of ways around those issues. Please note: you won't find the most advanced treatments, like ICSI or TESE, available through OB/Gyns who aren't Board Certified in REI. In fact, just like shelling out the bucks for at-home tests that don't give you a full diagnostic result, trying to achieve pregnancy with male factor infertility through your OB/Gyn can be a money drain.

Besides, if the at-home sperm count test comes back "abnormal" your next step is heading to a physician anyway. I bet your sweetheart would far rather lob all of those arrows in one appointment. If he's sweet enough to participate in helping you have a baby, maybe you should bundle all of his related tasks into one romantic, hopeful day. The Houston Fertility Center staff is happy to help make your dreams real.

~ Dr. Sonja Kristiansen MD

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