At-Home Kit Tests Man's Fertility

A new test that can be done at home is being billed as the first that can gauge a man's fertility, along with a woman's.

The combination could help couples learn whether they should be able to conceive, asserts Fertell's manufacturer, Genosis, Inc. of Needham, Mass.

Fertell (www.fertell.com) costs about $100.

Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay explains that Fertell measures sperm's ability to swim through a solution that mimics cervical mucous, and a female partner's fertility by sensing the presence of a fertility-related hormone.

A male being responsible for a couple having trouble getting pregnant is "quite common," Senay points out.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates that at least one-third of the time, the man is the sole source of the infertility. That's just as often as the problem lies completely with the woman. Another 10 percent of the time, both the man and the woman play a role in the inability to conceive.

That's a reminder that extensive testing of the woman before the man's ability to procreate is even considered can be a huge waste of time, money and anxiety, Dr. Senay observes.

The secret to telling if a man is fertile, she adds, "is in the sperm." A man may not be producing sperm at all, or making too little sperm to conceive, even if he seems to have full sexual function. Or, the sperm he produces may have limited motility. In other words, spermatozoa need to be strong swimmers to get to a woman's eggs and actually fertilize them.

That said, there are other considerations involved that this test can't measure. They include morphology, which is based on the sperm's physical ability to penetrate the egg.

So, Senay continued, Fertell's reliability is "an open question." At-home testing is still too new to have a track record, so the American Society for Reproductive Medicine advises couples not to make this test their only source if they need to confirm details about their fertility.

Also, if the woman is going to be tested, the man should be, too — immediately. The society also says that, if the test does suggest a problem, couples shouldn't wait. They should see a fertility specialist. And, whether or not couples use the test, if they're trying to conceive and nothing happens within six months to a year, they should get checked. Especially as a woman gets past her mid-30s and reaches age 40 and beyond, time matters. Fertility can drop sharply if too much time passes before action is taken, for getting pregnant "the old-fashioned way" as well as via in vitro fertilization.

Testing a woman can be a much more complicated process than testing a man, Senay noted, but experience shows that women tend to be more willing to do it. And the psychology is interesting. A fertility expert, Dr. Angie Beltsos of Fertility Centers of Illinois told CBS News that, when women are told they're infertile, they often react with regret that they won't have a baby. But when men are told they might have a fertility issue, they often worry not about being childless, but about their manhood.

Infertility can be embarrassing to a man. So can the physical process involved in getting semen for a sample. To the extent that testing himself at home could make a man more willing to acknowledge that he might be infertile, that could be a plus.

Still, experts say, Fertell's results shouldn't be taken as the final word.

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