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Men Can Now Test for Low Sperm Count at Home

Dianna Graveman |12, March 2012


According to a report by WebMD, "up to half of all cases of infertility involve problems with the man." Yet, many times, a man may be reluctant to seek medical advice or intervention, and doctors typically do not test for infertility problems until a couple hasn't conceived after trying for at least twelve months.

Low sperm count isn't the only cause of infertility or low fertility in men. In fact, about 15% of infertile men actually have a normal sperm count. Sometimes a blockage can be the problem, and this can be surgically corrected. Hormonal issues, such as low testosterone or a difficiency of other hormones produced in the brain can sometimes be the cause of low fertility. There are many other possible causes when a couple has difficulty conceiving, including male antibodies that may attack the sperm, or irregular shape or movement of sperm.

The best and truest way to determine why a couple has had trouble conceiving is to schedule an appointment with a health care professional. But since many men are reluctant to do that at first, a home fertility test might be the answer--or at least the first step. In-home fertility tests for women, like First Response, have been available for some time, but only recently has an accurate in-home test for men become available.

SpermCheck Fertility was developed in the technology labs at the University of Virginia and became available in 2010, both online and in pharmacies. The test received FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval in May 2010. According to the studies at the university, male infertility is a factor in 40% of infertile couples. Dr. John Herr, who invented the test and is a professor of cell biology at the university, feels the in-home test will "give men a greater chance to control and understand their reproductive functions."

The test, which only takes about ten minutes, is not the only fertility test on the market for men. But it may be the most accurate test for the price, according to experts. The first male infertility test was released in 2003, and tested just the number of cells in semen. The new test determines the concentration of a sperm-specific protein in semen by checking for an antigen (protein compound) called SP-10, which is found on the surface of a sperm cell. The consumer mixes a small amount of semen with a buffering substance, which releases the SP-10 protein from the sperm. It is considered to be more than 95% accurate. Consumers are cautioned that it cannot test for other causes of infertility like speed, movement, and shape of sperm. However, in 89% of infertile men, sperm count is the issue.

Whether a man is able to determine the exact cause--or even if he is the cause--of infertility, taking this first step by using an in-home test may prompt him to seek further evaluation with his partner. In some cases, use of the in-home test can prevent unnecessary and expensive fertility tests on women, who historically have been evaluated first by fertility experts when a couple has trouble conceiving before the man is even considered.

The SpermCheck Fertility site ( has specific instructions on how to use the test and how it works. If a red line appears in the result window, the consumer's sperm count has been determined by the test to be at least 20 million per milliliter, which is the accepted standard for normal. However, the site cautions that just because the test result shows a normal or above normal sperm count, does not mean the male is absolutely fertile. As noted above, other factors could be involved. If the couple has been trying for a year or more and has not conceived, they should still seek the advice of a health care professional or fertility expert.

The test runs between and in most areas and is available online and at pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS, and others.

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