At what point do you draw the line? When does a male infertility test become a necessary evil?
Jo and I have been trying to conceive for 5 months and are growing increasingly impatient, Jo in particular. Everything you read suggests that patience is the key.
80% of couples will conceive in the first year and stress is likely to harm your chances. Moreover, many of those that don’t conceive in the first year will conceive in the second.
Nonetheless, there is still an alarming percentage of people that aren’t able to conceive.
In an unfathomable number of ways, the Internet has improved our lives. However, piece of mind and anxiety, it certainly hasn’t provided. With just a 30 minute investigation, you can find dozens of conditions that will render your member impotent. I don’t know about you but once I know there is something that could be wrong, I need to know.
We could be trying for another year before getting tested, go through the highs and lows each month, when there could be an underlying condition that means that it is all futile.
As a result, last week, I took the decision to have a fertility test.
Where Can You Get Sperm Count & Quality Checked
It was unsurprising to find out that there are dozens of different home kits, some of which have very good accuracy ratings. There are even apps for it!
While the idea of a home test did sound much more appealing than having to have the conversation with the doctor and other medical staff, how accurate was it really going to be?
I thought to myself, the home test isn’t really going to provide the peace of mind that I’m looking for. I’m not a lab technician and I’m certainly not a doctor. I really wouldn’t trust myself to get it right.
There would still be a doubt that the test hadn’t been right, if we still struggled to conceive for the months to come. I would end up going to doctors and hospital anyway. If I’m going to bite the bullet and do the test then I may as well do it properly.
For those of you looking to have a test at home, there are dozens to choose from. There are some more expensive options that will give you the answer in your own home. Others allow you to collect your sample and send away. There is a whole industry that has developed.
Book An Appointment With The GP
It really is as simple as booking an appointment with the GP. Due to a number of reasons, the GP will only refer you to get checked if the issue is time critical (you’re getting on), you have reason to believe there is an issue (previous conditions) or you have been trying to conceive for a long time without success. As you can tell, while reading through the criteria, I met none of these criteria. Consequently, I told a little white lie to the GP. I said we had been trying for 18 months without success.
The GP then asks you a series of questions to check that there isn’t anything obvious that you’re missing out:
- How many times are you having sex? Once every 2-3 days is the recommended amount.
- Do you smoke?
- Do you drink?
- Are you following the right diet?
- Have you suffered any previous trauma to the groin area? (This one did get me thinking about unfortunate incidents with a football but surely it needs to be more severe?)
After saying that none of the above reasons were the cause of the lack of pregnancy, the GP headed off into another room. On his return, he was holding a rather small plastic tub.
He then instructed me that I was to abstain for 3-5 days before providing my sample. My sample then needed to be kept warm and transported to the local hospital in under an hour. I am a relatively mature 28 year old but there is still something unusual about having a conversations with a stranger about your sample and what you are going to do with your sample.
The Actual Process
If you are a man reading this, you will be unusually alarmed by just how small a specimen you’re able to provide.
However much you think you are going to be producing, trust me you won’t. The actual act is easy enough, most men have been training for this very act for years.
I must note that it isn’t as easy to aim the initial ‘spurt’ into the tub, as you’d think. I lost what felt like half of my sample.
Nonetheless, I managed to collect enough of my sample (I hoped) and Jo dropped it off at the hospital (wrapped in a tartan scarf to keep it warm).
Then, you have the agonising wait to see if there is actually anything wrong with you. The doctor suggested that the results would take 2-3 weeks but I was calling after the first week, having read online that the results are often back sooner.
Sure enough, at the start of the 2nd week my results were ready and I booked a phone call with the doctor to learn the verdict.
I’m pleased to say that I am okay! This blog post had been sitting in drafts while I awaited the results and I’m not sure that it would have seen the light of day if the results had been negative. I can honestly say that it is one of the most nerve-racking experiences that I have had the misfortune to go through.
In the time I had to wait for the results, I had stressed myself out by thinking about why a negative result would be so bad for me.
I’m young, I don’t drink much, I don’t smoke, I have no major known conditions and I have a healthy diet. If there was something wrong then it would have to be something I had no idea about and potentially pretty damn serious. There weren’t really anymore lifestyle changes that I would be able to make.
It would be easy for me to say to try and put the result out of your mind. The reality is, if you have cared enough to get it checked, there is no way that you will be able to take the results off your mind. The best you can do is to try and manage during that time. If your partner is awaiting fertility test results, please try to be understanding if they are a little on edge and try to avoid the subject!
So What Do The Results Actually Show You?
I was going to add a picture of the results on here but then the thought of my sperm analysis results being on the web forever was a little off putting. Although Jo did actually go and collect the paper results for me with her mother. While having a close relationship with your in-laws is a good thing, there should still be some secrets.
The things that are included in the results you get back are:
- Sperm volume.
- Sperm motility (motive, non-motive and progressive) – basically, are the swimmers heading in the right direction?
- Sperm concentration.
- Sperm number.
While there are different benchmarks in each of these categories, the main thing to worry about is the number of motive progressive sperm that you have. For example, your motility rate could be lower than average but if you are producing many more sperm than average then the potential impact is countered.
Annoyingly, the GP was keen to stress that the results were benchmarked against the lower end of normal and that this test was just the beginning. Jo would also have to be checked and I would likely have to be checked again too. This advice was given against the backdrop of Jo and I trying to conceive for 18 months.
At this stage, I’m just happy that I have sperm and enough of them are heading in the right direction. If we’re still have issues in the future then we cross that bridge.
The Male Fertility Test Verdict
I think if you’ve been trying for over a year or two then visiting your doctor is definitely the best bet. If you have been trying for less than a year but don’t feel bad about lying to the doctor then the doctor route is also the best way to go. I feel that the results are more reliable. It is easier to take the next step and if there is something wrong and it is free.
Many of the home tests do seem to work well from the reviews. However, for me, they would never provide the full peace of mind I was looking for. Plus, if there had been an issue with the home test, I would then have to go through the process of getting tested by the doctor anyway.
While the anonymity and lack of awkward conversations can seem appealing, I think a visit to the doctor is the best option.
I’m going to cover this in another article but I must also note that my test results would suggest that cycling doesn’t cause impotence. At least my cycling commute didn’t seem to have had any negative impact, despite Jo’s protestations.