Phone fertility app might make him an honest man

4 minute read

A phone camera app may mean men have one less excuse for shifting the infertility blame


That men attribute their infertility problems to different factors than their female partners probably isn’t surprising, but the recent release of a phone camera application may mean men have one less excuse for shifting the blame.

Research released at the Annual Meeting of European Society of Human Reproduction and Endocrinology found that when couples experienced fertility problems, men were significantly more likely than women to attribute the issue to their partner. Usually to something their partner had done in the past such as having an abortion, leading a racy lifestyle, or simply being older. Only occasionally did they suspect themselves or their own lifestyle.

On the other hand, women cited just about everything that could go wrong, except their partner – bad luck, chance, medical conditions, emotional state, God’s will and their age. TMR notes that surely bad luck , at least loosely, falls into the category of blaming their partner.

When women did consider their partner as a possible cause, they didn’t really assign blame, suggesting that “they [their partner] weren’t ready for parenthood”.

The facts say that low sperm counts or poor sperm mobility are to blame in over a third of the cases of couple infertility. Another third is due to known issues with the woman, and the remaining third is usually considered idiopathic. The odds are  then that a man is equally likely to be the problem as his partner in the case of couple infertility so the blame game revealed in this research is certainly not justified.

Compounding the problem for couples is that men very often don’t want to visit a clinic to provide a semen sample. They are embarrassed by the process.

Good news.  At the same meeting, Japanese and US researchers announced the release of a smart phone app that allows any man to perform a user-friendly home test of both sperm count and mobility. The is test accurate enough for a man with poor results to suspect he might have a problem and so should probably see his GP.

Yoshitomo Kobori of Dokkyo Medical University Hospital in Japan and colleagues from the University of Illinois in Chicago developed the mini microscope unit with a lens thinner than one millimetre, which can be clipped onto the camera of a smartphone and provide 550 times magnification.

A short video is all that is then needed to analyse the mobility and number of sperm.

To perform the test, the man waits five minutes after ejaculation, applies a small sample to a supplied plastic sheet, and places it in contact with the microscope lens. The app automatically takes a three-second video clip, which is then uploaded to a computer for viewing on a larger monitor.

The researchers say it’s relatively easy for men to count the number of sperm and the number actually moving.

A comparison of the results of 50 samples tested via both the app and standard equipment used in most fertility clinics revealed the same results via the two methods.

Despite this, the researchers were careful to warn that the test should be used only as a guide prior to seeing their medical practitioner.

Fertility specialists quoted in consumer media downplay the test as likely not to be that useful in developed economies where fertility testing in clinics is a relatively simple process.

But the Japanese developers  of the microscope and app feel that the test overcomes a key issue of men not even making it to the fertility clinic for a test. The convenience of being able to do your own test in your own time and place, and without your partner even knowing might provide men with an easier path to them understanding if they are the problem or not.

The kit, The Tenga Men’s Loupe, is surprisingly inexpensive as well at 1543 yen ( or $19.40 Australian). It is only available in Japan although by the looks of the website, it can be ordered directly online.

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