Everything you Need to Know about At-Home Male Fertility Testing

Eloise Edington  |   10 Jun 2021

Legacy are experts in male fertility, who want to help ensure your own legacy. They empower men with finding out about their fertile health. In this fertility blog, they share everything you need to know about at-home male fertility testing. Read on to find out why it’s so important to test sperm early and how, with Legacy, it can be done from the comfort of your own home, avoiding a fertility clinic. They provide amazing support from experts who can tailor a plan to help you to optimise your fertile health at the same time.

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While we often think of fertility as a women’s issue, the truth is that half of all cases of infertility can be attributed to the male partner. Despite this, most men never think about their sperm or fertility (beyond trying not to get anyone pregnant accidentally). One survey revealed that 73% of hopeful fathers had no knowledge of their sperm quality.

Additionally, fertility is becoming a bigger problem globally, in what some experts are calling a “male infertility crisis.” Average sperm counts have dropped by 50% since the 70s, possibly due to exposure to pollution or chemicals in plastics and other everyday items, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyles.

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Male fertility testing can offer a clear picture of your or your partner’s sperm health, and help you choose lifestyle changes that can increase fertility — and your chances of having a healthy baby.

A Semen Analysis is the Cornerstone of Male Fertility Testing

The first step in male fertility testing is a semen analysis. During this analysis, a semen sample — typically produced via masturbation — is examined under a high-powered microscope by a laboratory expert. The sample is evaluated for the following “semen parameters”, or metrics of fertility:

  • Sperm Count/Concentration – Sperm count is the total number of sperm in a particular quantity of semen, the fluid that carries sperm out of the penis. Sperm concentration refers to how densely packed those sperm are within the semen. For example, a sample may include 3 millilitres of semen (volume) and a total sperm count of 45 million; that would be a concentration of 15 million sperm per mL.
  • Sperm Motility – Motility refers to the ability of the sperm to move or “swim,” which is essential for them to move through the female reproductive system and fertilize the egg. Progressive motility is the best type of movement that can be seen in sperm testing—that means the sperm move forward in straight lines or in large circles, as opposed to in small tight circles or along erratic paths.
  • Sperm Morphology – Morphology means the sperm’s structure or shape, which is ideally a smooth oval head, a well-defined acrosome (cap) that covers 40–70% of the head, and a long tail with no visible abnormalities. This shape is important because it impacts a sperm’s ability to travel to and penetrate an egg.
  • Semen Volume – While low semen volume may not be a cause of infertility on its own, it can point to specific issues in the reproductive system, such as a blockage.

A semen analysis will not come back stamped “fertile” or “infertile.” Infertility is a functional diagnosis; that means it’s diagnosed when a couple cannot conceive after 6–12 months, not simply based on test results. Additionally, fertility is complex and evolving — it involves two partners and multiple factors, and can be impacted by lifestyle, medical history, and more. However, low sperm count and poor motility and morphology are associated with a lower chance of pregnancy. A semen analysis is an extremely valuable first look into your sperm health and how likely it is that you’ll be able to conceive naturally.

Advanced male fertility testing may include hormone testing, sperm DNA fragmentation analysis, and genetic testing, among other assessments. Today, many of these sperm tests can be done at home, as well.

At-Home Semen Analysis is Just as Comprehensive as In-Clinic Testing

However, not all at-home options are created equally. You need to make sure you’re getting a test that looks at all of the key male fertility factors, including sperm count/concentration, motility, morphology, and semen factors. All of the above are tested as part of a semen analysis in a clinic. Some at-home sperm testing options  only look at total sperm count or total motile sperm count, an incomplete picture of fertility. Legacy’s semen analysis kit tests all of the key male fertility factors.

Legacy also offers an additional test for sperm DNA fragmentation. Sperm DNA fragmentation is the health and integrity of the genetic material carried by sperm — the genetic material that may make up half of your future baby. A high level of damage to that DNA is associated with lower fertility, higher chance of miscarriage and a higher instance of birth defects and poor health outcomes for the child. Legacy offers the only at-home testing kit for sperm DNA fragmentation.

Related Article – The Importance of Fertility Nutrients and Supplements for Egg/Sperm Health

How At-Home Sperm Testing Works

Typically, the process of providing a semen sample for testing or freezing happens in a doctor’s office or fertility clinic. You’re given a cup and walked through the fertility clinic to a “collection room,” often with a chair or couch and a selection of adult videos or magazines; you’ll then produce a sample via masturbation and walk the cup to the lab. It’s an uncomfortable and pressurised experience for many.

Testing your sperm with a mail-in kit allows you to produce the sample in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Legacy’s at-home semen analysis kits use a transport media that’s clinically proven to protect and extend the life of sperm for overnight shipping and analysis.

At-Home Semen Analysis makes Testing More Accessible — Making it Easier to be Proactive

Traditionally, doctors recommend that patients try to conceive naturally for twelve months before doing any fertility tests. And in order to get a semen analysis at a fertility clinic or lab, you’ll need to see a doctor first.

But many causes of male-factor infertility, such as low sperm motility, can be reversed with simple lifestyle changes — like improving your diet, adopting an exercise routine, or kicking the smoking habit. By testing and addressing sperm health problems early with an at-home test, you can avoid costly and unnecessary tests or treatments down the line. Plus, there’s no prescription required, making it a little easier to reach your goal of growing your family.

Being able to do this testing without a doctor visit also allows everyone to access it, regardless of geographic location. A 2017 study reported that 40% of patients live in areas with one or fewer fertility practices and a third had no reproductive endocrinologists in their geographic area at all. At-home testing, in contrast, is available to everyone in the United States.

Related Article – Five Things to Help When Trying To Conceive Naturally

Testing Early Allows You to Adjust your Lifestyle for Optimal Fertility

If you have less-than-perfect semen analysis results, there’s good news: simple lifestyle changes may have a profound effect on sperm health. The sperm production cycle is about 70 days, so making changes now can mean you’ll see an improvement in your fertility in 2–3 months. Depending on your personal health and your semen analysis results, you might consider the following changes:

  • Quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption. Avoid marijuana or other recreational drugs.
  • Get in a regular, moderate exercise routine — even just walking or jogging 4–6 days a week may improve sperm health.
  • Adopt a diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables, fish, healthy fats and whole grains, as well as low in red meat, processed foods, added sugars, and trans fats. The Mediterranean diet is one example of an eating pattern that’s been associated with improved semen parameters.
  • Take a male fertility supplement, such as CoQ10.
  • Avoid any activities that will raise the temperature of the scrotum, such as soaking in a hot tub or hot bath, wearing tight underwear or clothing, or using a laptop on your lap for extended periods of time.
  • Aim to get 7–9 hours of quality sleep per night.
  • Talk to a doctor to understand the impact of any prescription or over-the-counter medications taken regularly.

Learn more about improving your sperm health.

Legacy’s semen analysis report comes with personalized guidance for improving your sperm health, based on your self-reported lifestyle assessment.

Click here to buy a Legacy at-home sperm kit

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