Fertility testing in a clinic where men need to ejaculate “on demand” is awkward, and even a little embarrassing for many guys. And for good reason! The conditions can be less than ideal when men have to perform in, shall we say, less familiar surroundings. A more convenient, private, and easy way to test a sperm sample is to order a home sperm test. Delivered directly and discretely to your home, a sperm analysis can be done in your own bedroom at a time that’s right for you.
It’s important to remember that these home tests do not replace any tests that you may have with your doctor but can be a good starting point to understand more about your fertility.
But how good are sperm tests in revealing men’s fertility potential?
Well, this depends on two main characteristics; what does the test measure and how accurately does it measure this?
Full laboratory sperm testing measures:
- Sperm concentration (also called sperm count)
- Sperm motility (the ability of sperm to move)
- Sperm morphology (the shape of the sperm)
Unfortunately, the majority of home sperm tests only measure the concentration, and this only gives you part of the picture when it comes to understanding your fertility. Your swimmers’ ability to move (motility) is also very important. The same goes for checking the ejaculate volume. This can give an indication about underlying conditions that may block or prevent the full ejaculate volume. Lastly, sperm morphology is an important factor in male fertility because it may affect how well the sperm is able to reach and penetrate the egg to fertilise it. This can only really be measured under a microscope, so you will not find any home sperm tests that will measure this.
The good news is that many home sperm tests can have a high level of accuracy, meaning that when you get your result you can be fairly confident that a laboratory-based test would have given you a similar result.
Most home sperm tests will give you a ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ result. The reading that determines a negative result in a home test can differ from the NHS low sperm count classification, so make sure you understand what these results mean. Some home sperm tests, such as the ExSeed Home Sperm Test Kit, provide more detailed results of the actual sperm count, which are often more useful when discussing your results with your doctor or fertility consultant.
What to look for
When looking for a home sperm test, it’s useful to consider the following:
Measuring both sperm count and sperm motility
A home sperm test that measures both the number of swimmers as well as how well they move will provide you with more information to help understand your fertility.
Check for accreditation
Home sperm tests are classified as In Vitro Diagnostics Devices (IVDs). This means that they must be approved in the UK by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) and given a CE mark, which must be displayed on the product. Make sure that any home sperm test you use is CE marked.
Check your swimmers more than once
Because sperm quality can be affected by lifestyle and varies naturally, it’s important that you choose a test that allows you to check your sperm quality over time. To confirm the accuracy of your result, due to natural variation, it is advisable that you repeat your first test within 10 days but remain abstinent for at least 2-3 days before re-testing. Then, as you make positive lifestyle changes to help to improve the quality of your swimmers, test again every 3 months.
The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines as a reference
The World Health Organisation, define a low sperm count as being at a concentration below 15 million sperm per millilitre (ml) of semen. Some home sperm testing kits classify a low sperm count as under 20 million sperm per ml. Where a home sperm test only gives a positive or negative result, make sure you understand what the result means. A ‘true’ count of between 15 million to 20million sperm per ml is NOT considered a low sperm count but some home sperm tests may give you a negative result. A home sperm test that gives you the actual sperm count can be more useful, especially if your result is close to borderline.
Fertility guidance is important
Understanding what a sperm test result means for you can be a little difficult. If you do receive a result that indicates a low sperm count and having repeated the test your result is still low, get in touch with your doctor, or with a fertility expert. Dr Fertility has a team of fertility experts available to book an appointment to discuss your sperm count, or for any other concerns regarding you fertility.
Helpful products and services from the Dr Fertility range
This blog was written with the support of our partners at ExSeed Home Health, who produce the ExSeed Home Sperm Test Kit.
The ExSeed Home Health Test Kit will give you results which show you both sperm count and sperm motility. You also receive ‘quantitative results’, meaning you get the actual numbers and not just a positive or negative result. The handy ExSeed Health App, which is free to download, uses the camera on your phone to analyse your sample, show you your results and provide lifestyle advice.
The 2-test kit is suitable for anyone who wants to get an initial check and includes a second follow-up test to confirm the result.
The 5-test kit allows a second test to confirm the accuracy, as well as a further 3 tests to monitor your sperm count over a year.
1. NHS Nottingham University Hospitals – How are sperm tested? [Online content accessed 15.09.20] https://www.nuh.nhs.uk/how-are-the-sperm-tested/
2. Healthline Parenthood - How does sperm morphology affect fertility? [Online content accessed 15.09.20] https://www.healthline.com/health/sperm-morphology
3. Sperm morphology [online content accessed 16.09.20] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/male-infertility/expert-answers/sperm-morphology/faq-20057760
4. NICE Guidelines – Fertility problems, Quality standard 4: Semen analysis [Online content accessed 10.09.20] https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs73/chapter/Quality-statement-4-Semen-analysis
Written on 10/11/2020 Review by 10/11/2023