Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Testing fertility in the comfort of your home

About three years ago, a British company, Fertell released a home fertility test kit for couples - it includes tests for both the man and the woman ($89.99). The men's test was the first home test that shows whether the sperm motility is within the "normally expected levels needed to reach and fertilise the egg". Until then, the most popular home sperm test you could buy was the FertilMarq Male Fertility Sperm Test (also known as PreConceive) ($36.95 & free shipping), but what FertilMarq can tell you is just whether the sperm concentration is above or below 20 million sperm cells per ml. It doesn't tell you anything about the motility. Another test on the market is Micra Sperm Test - At Home Test for Sperm Count and Motility ($79.95) which got mixed reviews on Amazon.

The women's test is an FSH test, which is a good indication of ovarian reserve (i.e., whether the eggs produced are likely to be of good, fertile quality or not). This type of test isn't new - Estroven Menopause Monitor Kit - 2 tests ($18.10 + shipping, currently out of stock) and obviously it's important to pay attention to the sensitivity of the test. ETA - see comment below

I find Fertell's test for men fascinating. I wonder if it will bring around the revolution that they expect - more men will test at home to know if there's a problem. Is the reason that men aren't going to the lab because they're embarassed to carry the sample in (from my experience they usually just palm this off to the woman anyway) or because they're afraid of the results? Maybe it's a combination of the two and the Fertell sperm test will make it just a little bit easier for reluctant men to test themselves.

I do wonder what you do with the results? I guess you go to your fertility specialist (assuming the results are bad) and say, "My Fertell came out lousy." or something like that and then he sends you for a lab test. If the Fertell test comes out good & you end up pursuing fertility treatments anyway, you'll end up having to give a sample somewhere down the line.

I'm glad to see that there's continued work to make the life of those struggling with the first steps of trying to conceive easier. I hope that it will save a lot of couples a lot of time and heartache. They say it can save you up to a year. That's exactly right. If the test is poor, you can go ahead and make an appointment without ever trying to conceive. That does sound cool, at least in retrospect.

Too bad it's such an intimate item, otherwise it might quickly become a popular wedding present.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to add the following information - the FertilMarq test (it is also marketed under the BabyStart brand in some drug stores) has a rather severe limitation - its accuracy as described in the clinical information (posted on their website) correlates to the professional test result only 78% of the time. This means for more than 1 in 5 it is giving a dubious result. In addition, 25% of the time it indicates you are infertile when the professional result is the opposite. And as you pointed out it only measures for a minimum sperm quantity. While it is as convenient as Fertell and much cheaper, I’m not sure that most physicians would endorse its use.

In regards to the Estroven Product, I believe it is calibrated to detect a significantly higher level of FSH than the Fertell product. This is typical of most menopause tests, but I cannot be certain about their specific test. The Fertell test is definitely calibrated to detect a level with high correlation to deteriorating ovarian reserve.

Each of the Fertell tests (men's and women's) has accuracy that correlates to the laboratory test at greater than 95%.

The cost of the male test is high, as you mentioned - this is due to the fact that it includes battery operated customized electronics, a heating element that maintains the ejaculate at body temperature and other relatively expensive components. For what it does and the accuracy of its results, I think it is a fair value. (Having had to go and produce a sample at a Doctor’s office while my wife and I were trying to conceive, I consider it a very fair value.)

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