The first step in diagnosing male infertility is to evaluate a sperm sample for sperm count, sperm motility (amount of movement), and sperm morphology (general shape and health of the sperm). With recent advancements in technology, basic information about sperm counts is now available at the tap of a finger in a phone app. So how accurate are those results?
My team and I recently took to comparing one popular home sperm count test, YO Sperm Test, to labs performed in-house to see if these at home sperm tests really can offer an affordable and private testing option to help a couple determine their next steps. Our experiment tested for a high sperm count, low sperm count and a sperm count in the medium category.
How the YO Sperm Test kit works
The YO at home sperm test kit includes one re-usable smartphone clip and supplies for running two tests. Once you download the app, following the prompts on your phone is very simple. The test can be broken down into a few essential steps:
- App users collect and prepare their sperm sample slide for analysis.
- Users insert the sample slide into a clip that attaches to the individual’s phone.
- The app uses the phone camera to gather video of the sperm sample and transmits the user’s video for analysis.
- Users receive their results in the app.
To start, I’m not a spokesman for the company but I think some men will find this test useful. This YO Home Sperm Test is ingeniously designed and it works. It has one particular drawback, but it’s a simple and affordable test, that anyone can do if they’re anxious about their fertility. I don’t think it’s as sophisticated as it needs to be in terms of the cut-offs, and I’ll explain that as we go through our first sample.
We tested a man who had over two hundred million sperm per cubic centimeter (CC), which is medical talk for how concentrated the sperm are.
The patient received a moderate-to-normal, result. What does this mean? So this is the problem … This test tells us that it’s moderate-to-normal but that’s really not as helpful as I’d like it to be, because you really need more information than that to be pretty sure that you’re fertile.
This particular man had a two hundred million count and you really can’t tell from this result. So, he’s very fertile (I’m sure the only reason it reads the way it does has something to do with the way it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration). So this is somewhat helpful – you know you’ve got at least six million – but in this case, the man had almost two hundred million, so it’s not really as specific as we’d like it to be.
An early drawback of YO
One problem with this test was that it told you that the man has at least six million sperm, it didn’t tell you that he’s really a “superstar.” If a man has eight million sperm, he’s really sub-fertile (has a reduced chance of conceiving) and the way this test is read out it tells you that it’s moderate too normal. The test didn’t distinguish between an eight million count and a two hundred million count at the time we filmed. At this time, the scoring system is quite a bit more specific.
Once scored, some men might find out that they’ve basically flunked this test and, in that case, they would be really at risk for having extremely low fertility and should see a doctor fairly quickly.
Next we’re going to test a man who has demonstrably low sperm count in the past and see how he scores on this YO Sperm Test.
Efficacy for low sperm counts
Dr. Massey review YO home sperm testing kit.
We performed the sperm test on a sample that was collected 30 minutes before. Following the prompts in the app, we put in the powder that liquefies the semen, mixed it and waited 10 minutes. Then we prepared the slide that we were going to use to measure from a drop of semen.
We’d already established that this man has a sperm count of under six million. That’s very low – the ideal sperm count to achieve pregnancy is at least twenty million. If a man or couple receive results like these, they need to go get a formal semen analysis and evaluation, particularly if the couple is trying to conceive. If it’s a man who’s just checking to see if his sperm count is okay without being married, he probably ought to seek out an evaluation as well. A specialist in the field of urology would be the right person to see.
The next question is going to be: What if the sperm count is over six million but still not at the level that we’d really like to see for optimal fertility? We’d like to see the sperm counts over twenty million. So what has YO done to be able to help a man in that category determine where he is and what his prospects are?
Test for medium sperm counts
After we conducted our first two tests YO rolled out a new scoring method, that ranks users based on the number of motile sperm. App users now receive a score between 10 to 90+, the higher the score the more sperm a man has in his sample.
So, we tested the man whose sperm count was sort of in the middle. His sperm count was 28 million, his motility was okay, but it’s really not great. And if he goes into the app, he finds out that his score is 10. Well, what does that mean?
That means out of a 100 people who have fathered children, he ranks 10th, in the lower part of that “normal” profile. So if you are 10 out of a 100 in terms of fathering children, that’s really not great. This really means the man needs a formal semen analysis and should probably should see a physician, particularly if his wife isn’t getting pregnant or if he’s worried about his future fertility.
Their new scoring system is extremely helpful.
Understanding your home fertility test results
At home sperm tests for count can provide users with a basic understanding of their fertility, specifically their motile sperm count, but additional information that can cause infertility such as the shape of the sperm cannot be analyzed.
Users with high or normal results who are still struggling to conceive should seek out a urologist or reproductive endocrinologist for treatment. Any app user with a low score should also seek out a urologist.