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If you’ve been trying to conceive for a while with no success, getting your sperm tested may provide some answers.
While sperm testing offers valuable information, going to a healthcare facility and ejaculating into a cup isn’t always the most convenient (or comfortable) option. The good news is there are sperm test kits that you can do from the comfort of home.
What is a home sperm test?
At-home sperm kits are semen analysis tests you can perform––you guessed it––at home.
Some people use these for initial fertility testing as they’re a quick and easy starting point to learn about your sperm. Before home sperm tests were available, male fertility testing could only be done at a provider’s office or lab (Wang, 2014).
What does an at-home sperm test measure?
Each home sperm test measures different parameters that contribute to sperm health. Some of the main ones include (Wang, 2014):
- Sperm count, the total number of sperm
- Sperm morphology, sperm shape
- Sperm motility, sperm movement or ability to travel
- Sperm vitality, number of live sperm
Types of at-home tests
There are several home sperm tests approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Each requires you to provide a sample by ejaculating into a collection cup. How the test is performed from there depends on the kit.
Rapid tests measure sperm count and give you results in just 10 minutes. These tests have a small well to put your sperm sample in. You then add chemicals and the results appear on a test strip, similar to strep, flu, and COVID tests (Yu, 2018).
Other at-home tests get even fancier and include a microscope and instructions explaining how to analyze your sample. Some are smartphone-enabled and have an attachment that lets you use your phone as a microscope. These types of tests accurately measure sperm motility and count (Yu, 2018).
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If you’re not comfortable analyzing your own results, there are tests where you just provide a semen sample and mail it to a lab. Like a sample done in a clinical setting, the lab will fully process it and give you details about parameters like semen volume, sperm count, motility, morphology, and vitality (Yu, 2018).
Some of these labs can also store your sample if you’d like to keep it for later. This is an important step for people who anticipate a problem with their future fertility; an example is men going through cancer treatment, which could affect sperm.
Do at-home sperm tests work?
Home sperm tests are a good first step in male fertility testing. They provide a fast and accurate measure of things like sperm count and motility, plus have the benefit of doing it in a comfortable, private setting (Yu, 2018).
Studies suggest that at-home sperm tests are just as effective at measuring sperm count and motility as lab tests. People have also reported that sperm kits are easy to use, and they feel comfortable interpreting their results (Sommer, 2020; Agarwal, 2018).
Home sperm tests may have another advantage over labs. The quality of lab tests hinge on the reliability of the collection cup and standards of the lab evaluating the sample. While a sample’s quality shouldn’t theoretically differ based on where it’s collected, researchers have found home collection yielded better results (Elzanaty, 2008).
It can’t be confirmed if ejaculating in a cold, clinic dampens the mood enough to affect how well your sperm swim, but there is something to be said for collecting your sample at home.
What to do with the results
Home sperm tests are a helpful step in male fertility testing, but there are limitations. Rapid tests that measure sperm count or motility don’t measure other important parameters of sperm health.
Everything you need to know about sperm
Test results also can’t be used to diagnose infertility or other underlying medical conditions like hormone imbalances. For a detailed fertility analysis, you’ll need to see a healthcare provider or fertility specialist (Yu, 2018).
That said, home sperm tests that let you collect and send a sample to a lab can yield a more thorough assessment of your sperm count, morphology, and motility. If any of the results are abnormal, follow up with your healthcare provider who can help determine the next steps.
At-home sperm tests are helpful for people who have basic questions about their fertility. A home sperm test can’t replace a full examination from a healthcare professional, but they can give you accurate results quickly without having to coax out a semen sample in a clinic bathroom.
- Agarwal, A., Panner Selvam, M. K., Sharma, R., et al. (2018). Home sperm testing device versus laboratory sperm quality analyzer: comparison of motile sperm concentration. Fertility and Sterility, 110(7), 1277–1284. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2018.08.049. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30424879/
- Cooper, T. G., Noonan, E., von Eckardstein, S., et al. (2010). World Health Organization reference values for human semen characteristics. Human Reproduction Update, 16(3), 231–245. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmp048. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19934213/
- Elzanaty, S. & Malm, J. (2008). Comparison of semen parameters in samples collected by masturbation at a clinic and at home. Fertility and Sterility, 89(6), 1718–1722. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2007.05.044. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17658521/
- Komori, K., Tsujimura, A., Ishijima, S., et al. (2006). Comparative study of Sperm Motility Analysis System and conventional microscopic semen analysis. Reproductive Medicine and Biology, 5(3), 195–200. doi:10.1111/j.1447-0578.2006.00141.x. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5891812/
- Sommer, G. J., Wang, T. R., Epperson, J. G., et al. (2020). At-home sperm testing for epidemiologic studies: Evaluation of the Trak male fertility testing system in an internet-based preconception cohort. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 34(5), 504–512. doi:10.1111/ppe.12612. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8052852/
- Wang, C. & Swerdloff, R. S. (2014). Limitations of semen analysis as a test of male fertility and anticipated needs from newer tests. Fertility and Sterility, 102(6), 1502–1507. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2014.10.021. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4254491/
- World Health Organization (WHO). (2010). WHO laboratory manual for the examination and processing of human semen. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/44261/9789241547789_eng.pdf;jsessionid=CF9A927CA056B87F9265193DDCD505D7?sequence=1
- Yu, S., Rubin, M., Geevarughese, S., et al. (2018). Emerging technologies for home-based semen analysis. Andrology, 6(1), 10–19. doi:10.1111/andr.12441. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5745266/
Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.