Evaluation of the male partner in an infertile couple is often delayed until the couple has been trying for a period of time. Why? Well, about seventy-five percent of couples will conceive after six months of trying and about ninety-five percent will conceive after trying for a year, so evaluation is often delayed until the couple reaches that milestone.
Semen analysis is generally the first step in a fertility evaluation for the male. It involves an assessment of sperm count (or density), motility and morphology (shape) in addition to other parameters such as the volume or pH of the specimen. Semen testing can be inconvenient as laboratories will often require a specimen to arrive within thirty to sixty minutes of production. Some labs require production on site.
A new home test is now available that can reliably assess a man’s sperm count. The product is called the “Trak Male Fertility Testing System” and allows men to collect and then perform a sperm count with the convenience and privacy of their own home. The Trak device includes a spinner and disposable cartridges that use centrifugal force to isolate and then quantify the sperm. The product includes a cell phone app which allows men to track their sperm count over time as well as to record information about possible lifestyle factors including diet, exercise and stress. The test is FDA approved and is available now through the www.trakfertility.com website. Sperm counts are classified as “Low”, “Moderate” or “Optimal” based on World Health Organization guidelines.
Male Fertility Testing at Home
This new device may shift the paradigm of male fertility testing in a few ways. One way is that testing at home doesn’t need to wait 6 to 12 months. If the count is “Low”, it’s low, and then why delay evaluation? A second way is that men now have a tool that can be actively applied to assess the impact of lifestyle changes that might improve sperm production.
With that said, Trak does not replace semen analysis as it does not measure sperm motility or morphology, both of which can impact fertility even in the setting of a “normal” sperm count. It does not measure other semen characteristics (such as pH) either. So, even with a good Trak result, more formal testing after 6 to 12 of trying is likely still a good idea.