There are many reasons why men might want to test at home rather than at a clinic. Maybe they’re right to the start of their journey and aren’t ready to commit to a clinic yet. Or perhaps they find the pressure of rising to the occasion in a cold, uninviting clinic cubicle a bit too much! Either way, there are lots of positives to testing your sperm at home – but be careful of where you’re buying your test from and what they measure.
There are several male fertility home test kits available on the market, both in pharmacies and online. Most of these tests claim to indicate whether your sperm quality is low or normal. But how good are these tests?
Do at-home male fertility tests work?
Well this depends on two things 1) What the test measures, and 2) how accurately it’s measurement is.
Most certified sperm tests on the market currently have pretty high accuracy, meaning that when you get a specific result you can be quite sure this is also what the laboratory would have found. But – if your test is only checking for certain parameters, it doesn’t matter how accurate it is, it still won’t give you a full picture of your fertility.
The NHS says that a sperm test should measure at least concentration (also called “count”) and motility. Unfortunately, the majority of cheap at-home sperm tests you can buy at a supermarket or a pharmacy only measure your sperm count. In a post-Covid world, there is a growing popularity for cheap lateral flow style sperm tests that claim they can give you an indication of your fertility, but again, they only look at your sperm count and ask for no context around your lifestyle factors or health history.
The problem is that the number of sperm you have is not enough to tell you whether you are fertile or not. The sperm cells’ ability to move (motility) also is very important. The same goes for checking the ejaculate volume. This can indicate underlying conditions that may block or prevent the full ejaculate volume.
Think of it this way. A cheap test from the supermarket may tell you that you have a normal sperm count and you could carry on with your fertility journey assuming everything is fine. But what if all of those sperm cells were dead? Or not swimming? You would still be struggling to conceive and would have no idea why.
What to look for in a home sperm test
When searching for or buying a home sperm test, it’s important to be aware of the following:
Ideally, look for tests that measure Total Motile Sperm Count
When going for a sperm test, it should at least measure sperm count and motility. Ideally, you want them to measure volume too so they can give you an accurate Total Motile Sperm Count reading. Total Motile Sperm Count is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the best indicator of male factor fertility. It tells you the number of moving sperm cells moving forward per ejaculate.
Be aware of the accuracy
Controlling the accuracy of a test can be hard for people who are not medically trained. The easiest way is to look if the test has a CE certification as an In Vitro Diagnostics device (IVD). This ensures the device has been validated thoroughly and is safe to use. If the test is certified, the manufacturer will have to provide the accuracy in the instructions for use.
Make sure to use The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines as a reference
Some home testing kits classify a low sperm count as under 20 million cells per ml. According to the WHO (international guidelines), a sperm count above 15M/ml is normal. Clinically speaking it’s difficult to address what it means if you have under 20 M/ml as it’s not normally used in the clinic.
If home tests measure several sperm parameters, it’s important that the reference is always the WHO.
Check your swimmers more than once
Because sperm quality naturally varies and lifestyle factors can affect sperm quality, it’s important that you choose a test where you can check your sperm quality a few times. We recommend testing the quality of sperm two times within 10 days to be sure of your baseline quality. This is also the advice from the WHO.
Fertility Guidance is important!
Understanding a sperm test result can be a little difficult. Besides choosing a user-friendly home sperm test, it’s also a good idea to find a test with a good explanation of the test result and what to do afterwards if the result isn’t optimal.
If your sperm quality is low (also when re-testing), make sure to contact your general practitioner or a fertility specialist for medical help. When taking the ExSeed test you can even arrange a call with one of our experts straight away to discuss your result and next steps.
Together with the ExSeed app the ExSeed home sperm test offers accurate and quantitative sperm testing as well as support and resources to help you on your journey!
Download the free ExSeed app today and find out more.