Do we have to fear male fertility self-tests?

Male fertility self-tests are now available in pharmacies. Ensure fertility quickly and easily, a promising promise for many men. But what to do when the dream becomes nightmare, when one is alone in front of a test revealing a potential sterility?

Lucien Fauvernier

SpermCheck is the name of the first fertility self-test for men sold in pharmacies. To find out if you are fertile or not, the test shows the concentration of "SP10", a sperm protein. The more "SP10" is present, the more spermatozoa there are. If the concentration is at least equal to 15 million gametes per milliliter of sperm, two red bars are displayed: you are fertile according to SpermCheck, which puts forward a reliability of 98%.

However, having a high concentration of spermatozoa does not necessarily ensure their vigor or viability. Thus this self-test does not replace a spermogram performed in the laboratory. So do not panic if, after the 7 minutes that the test asks for its results, the analyzes seem to indicate infertility. You must then go to a center specialized in male fertility where a professional will take care of you. If it is appropriate not to be alarmed, SpermCheck clearly raises the question of the merits of medical tests to be done at home, while the first self-tests of AIDS should arrive in France next July. Learning about infertility or HIV status alone, without medical help or psychological assistance, goes against all the monitoring and support procedures that currently exist in France.

Geneviève Delaisi is a psychoanalyst, researcher in human sciences, specialist in bioethics.

How is this test a breakthrough in the diagnosis of male infertility?

Geneviève Delaisi: This is a step forward since it indicates to the man that he is possibly fertile. But first of all it is necessary to remember what it is to know how to be fertile. It's the possibility of having a child with someone. For women, pregnancy tests have been around for a long time. But that did not change the face of the world in relation to couple fertility. That men can know that they are fertile is essentially a narcissistic gain. It's reassuring. Now that does not solve anything about whether or not they will have a child with their half, because procreating is a complex thing. All that the test indicates is that you are possibly fertile. But infertility is a question that has tainted men since the dawn of time.Until today, only the spermogram allowed to know if in the spermatic liquid there were or not spermatozoa. Now, there is also this test.

Is not there a risk in potentially letting a man realize his infertility, alone in front of a test?

G. D: Of course, but this problem was already present for the spermograms sent by post. It is forbidden by the bioethical law but the laboratories are accustomed to ignore it. In fact, it is men who receive results indicating a rate 0 of sperm present in semen, which is extremely violent. In cases where there is little sperm - the only thing that can indicate the self-test - it does not mean zero chances to procreate. It only takes a few viable sperms to achieve this. Especially with modern fertilization techniques, even a single sperm is sufficient. This is the case with intracytoplasmic injection or ICSI: find a viable sperm and send it into the egg.

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