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Over the Counter Sperm Test Provides Incomplete Information to Measure Male Fertility

Posted Mar 01 2012 12:00pm

In April, Walgreens and CVS will begin selling the SpermCheck Fertility test, a $39.95 over the counter test that determines whether men have a normal sperm count. Fertility experts share that there are other critical factors such as motility (movement characteristics of sperm) and morphology (appearance of sperm) as equally important which are not tested. Additionally, the test measures a normal sperm count at 20 million or more sperm per milliliter of semen while the industry standard for optimal fertility is 15 million, potentially causing unnecessary concern for men with a negative test result. When taking the test, men who test positive for 20 million or more per milliliter of semen see a reddish line in their test results, while those who have less than 20 million per milliliter do not see a result. The test is 96 percent accurate and will be sold at 7,800 stores across the US in April.  

Dr. Ed Marut , Medical Director of Fertility Centers of Illinois , is concerned men will be misguided with their test results. “SpermCheck Fertility exploits the reluctance of men to be evaluated for their fertility properly and may give couples a false sense of hope or cause unnecessary anxiety. The test gives a very simplified result without taking into account additional health conditions. A negative test result may really be normal, while a positive test tells nothing of the other critical parameters of a real semen analysis, such as motility and morphology. Men need to receive a thorough, accurate semen analysis interpreted by a reproductive endocrinologist to accurately maximize chances of pregnancy success.” 

In order to understand male fertility, it is critical to understand the main components involved, which are illustrated below. Couples are also encouraged to complete basic testing for fertility if they have trouble conceiving. Fertility Centers of Illinois offers a fertility check-up for couples which includes bloodwork and a semen analysis evaluated by a board certified reproductive endocrinologist for $90. 

Sperm Health: What Men Need to Know 

  • Sperm Count:

It is critical for men to have a healthy sperm count for optimal fertility. Men with at least 15 million sperm per milliliter are well within a normal, healthy sperm count. The average human ejaculate contains about 180 million sperm (66 million/ml), but some ejaculates contain as many as 400 million sperm.

  • Morphology: (appearance)

A healthy sperm has an oval head and long tail, allowing for the sperm to be propelled forward effectively. When a sperm has a small, large, misshapen, crooked or tapered head, its ability to fertilize an egg is decreased. Sperm with tails that are doubled, curled or kinky are also unlikely to fertilize an egg. Fertile men have a normal shape and structure to 14 percent of their sperm, but at least four percent is thought to be the lower limit of fertilizing capacity.

  • Motility: (movement)

The ability of a sperm to propel itself and move forward is imperative to successful conception. Sperm that are immobile, slow or have inhibited motility due to morphology abnormalities are unable to reach the egg for fertilization. Fertile men have 40 percent or more of their sperm exhibiting healthy motility.

Men with a lower sperm count, low morphology or low motility may need the assistance of reproductive endocrinologists to optimize fertility odds. This can be accomplished through a variety of infertility treatment methods such as methods such as semen processing for intrauterine insemination and In Vitro Fertilization using ICSI (the injection of a sperm into an egg.)

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Fertility Centers of Illinois, S.C., is one of the nation's leading fertility treatment practices, providing advanced reproductive endocrinology services in the Chicago area for more than 30 years.  FCI physicians, embryologists and support staff are stringently chosen based on educational background, medical skills and their ability to collaborate. With a team of 11 nationally and internationally recognized reproductive physicians who treat thousands of patients each year, the practice has earned a reputation for overcoming hard-to-solve fertility issues. FCI is dedicated to medical and clinical excellence and continues to invest in the latest technologies and research. FCI offers a comprehensive range of fertility treatment options including intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilization, donor egg, gestational carrier, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, as well as extensive resources to address financial and emotional needs. Fostering a culture for continuous innovation has made FCI home to the annual Midwest Reproductive Symposium which attracts experts in the field of reproductive endocrinology from around the world.  FCI has 10 offices conveniently located throughout the Chicagoland area (Buffalo Grove, Chicago/River North, Crystal Lake, Glenview, Highland Park, Hoffman Estates, Lindenhurst, Naperville, Oakbrook Terrace, and Orland Park). FCI is a member of the Attain Fertility Network which provides discounted fertility treatment programs. For more information visit


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