A key factor in male fertility is quality of sperm. Sperm needs to have good mobility (speed) and good motility (movement), and there needs to be a good supply of healthy specimens available (none with two heads, please). Until recently, men suspecting they may have a fertility issue were asked to leave a sample for semen analysis at a fertility center or doctor's office -- and often that sample is collected at the center itself or must be delivered in a short amount of time. Uncomfortable. But now there's an at-home testing option to help relieve the pressure.
Researchers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville have developed an at-home test kit that can be used to check one part of what's normally included in a semen analysis: a man's sperm count. Wondering why you'd bother with just a sperm count? While this test doesn't check for other sperm issues -- problems with shape, speed and movement -- problems with sperm count are responsible for an estimated 89 percent of sperm-related infertility issues [source: Hutchison]. It's a good place to start.
At-home male fertility testing requires only the test kit and a fresh semen sample. The test strips are designed to detect the amount of an antigen known as SP-10, which is found on the head of sperm cells. Men with results indicating more than 20 million sperm per milliliter are considered to have normal fertility. Men with sperm counts between 2 million and 20 million may have impaired fertility, and those with counts less than 2 million are considered infertile.
For couples who may have been trying to conceive for a few months, but who aren't ready to undergo fertility testing, at-home FSH testing may be beneficial and could potentially help you spot a problem early on. Tests are more than 95 percent accurate and cost less than in-office testing. While these tests aren't a diagnosis, they are a good first step toward understanding your fertility and whether you may benefit from expert advice and planning.
For more information about at-home fertility testing, see the next page.