Unless you’re at that stage where you’re trying to have a baby and things aren’t really coming to fruition, fertility isn’t a topic men usually talk about.
But despite what you might expect, male fertility problems aren’t that uncommon. Up to 4.7 million men aged 45 and under will see a fertility doctor in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here’s the reality, though: Very few men are content to sit in a waiting room, provide a (yes, manual labor-intensive) semen sample, all in an effort to diagnose malfunctioning sperm. It’s also an expensive test. So, to avoid the embarrassment and shame many men experience, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) created an at-home test that can measure semen quality using a specialized smartphone attachment.
“We wanted to come up with a solution to make male infertility testing as simple and affordable as home pregnancy tests,” Hadi Shafiee, a principal investigator in the Division of Engineering in Medicine and Renal Division of Medicine at BWH, said in a press release. “Men have to provide semen samples in these rooms at a hospital, a situation in which they often experience stress, embarrassment, pessimism, and disappointment. This test is low-cost, quantitative, highly accurate, and can analyze a video of an undiluted, unwashed semen sample in less than five seconds.”
Obviously you still have to do some work—but in the comfort and privacy of your home. The semen analyzer has an easy-to-use disposable chip attached to a rubber bulb (think turkey baster) that draws the semen up to the top of the device. You detach and trash the tip, then connect the remainder of the device to the semen analyzer.
The app takes it from here. It guides you through each step of testing. The 3D analyzer measures your total sperm count and the sperms’ movement/motility.
Here’s a demonstration of the app in action:
Researchers also put the app to the test. The team collected and studied 350 clinical semen specimens. Overall, the smartphone-based device was able to detect abnormal semen samples with 98% accuracy.
Currently, the smartphone-based semen analyzer is in its prototyping stage. But the team plans to perform additional tests, then file for FDA approval.
Not at a time in your life where you’re thinking about babies? You should still avoid these 7 everyday habits that hurt male fertility.