YO Sperm test: They play rugby - but can they swim?
Sperm Health Watch what happens when four Belsize Park Rugby Players come together… have their lifestyles impacted their sperm health?
Father of three and reproductive endocrinologist Dr Omurtag, is fascinated by the fusion between technology and reproduction. He’s particularly impressed with innovations that mean you can test your sperm at home using your mobile phone. “As a reproductive endocrinologist, I must have seen sperm under a microscope thousands of times, but there is still something really neat about seeing it moving on a screen.”
Since up to 50 per cent of infertility issues could be due to a male factor, “it’s important that men have accurate, easy-to-understand tools, in the same way that women have ovulation prediction kits,” says Dr Omurtag.
Over the past five years, home sperm testing kits have become available, and he says we’re now seeing a second generation of kits, which provide more information as well as a more accurate sperm count.
What are the right measurements?
The first generation of home testing kits didn’t include ‘motility’ as a key measure. Now, “newer kits look at the question of motility, telling you whether you have a good concentration of sperm that’s moving - and you need it to be moving forward.”
“A total motile count of six million or higher is probably adequate for spontaneous conception,” says Dr Omurtag. “But remember, there may still be other factors involved, such as the female’s fertility, or the sperm’s ability to interact with the egg.
Users should bear in mind, though, that “a home kit is a screening, it does not replace formal sperm tests which look at other aspects such as the shape of the sperm, which is very important.”
Why would you use a home testing kit?
“Men don’t want to enter the healthcare system unless there is something drastically wrong; it’s much more routine for women. Now, home testing kits have finally given men the tools to help monitor their fertility potential.” Men going for a lab test may be stressed thinking, ‘Am I going to be masturbating in a cupboard?’
“It’s easier for men who are reluctant to, or simply cannot, get to the lab for testing, and reduces the anxiety that can be associated with trying to get pregnant - there can be a ‘manliness’ factor, which causes stress”, but with a home kit, you’re taking action in your own time and at your own convenience in the security of your own home; it’s empowering.
Time-saving is another big plus: in the worst case, explains Dr Omurtag, a couple might spend three years trying for a baby only to find, at that point, that there’s a male factor hitch, and they’ve lost that time rather than getting into appropriate treatment.
I’m young, in good health and not looking to start a family – do I still need to take a test?
“Sperm motility and shape both decline with age, so an older man in a new relationship with a younger partner may want to run a check if pregnancy is the goal. Though many people using the kits will be keen to get pregnant, there are also more general implications for men’s health”, says Dr Omurtag. “The information can be helpful if you do not want pregnancy, or have erectile dysfunction or low libido”.
“Men taking testosterone - for example, to treat male pattern baldness - may be interested to do a test as testosterone can lower your sperm count. Cancer patients banking sperm before undergoing chemotherapy may also find the tests helpful further down the line.
If the test shows little to no sperm, I’d advise seeing a urologist to check there are no lesions or other issues.”