Men worried about their fertility can now check their sperm count and quality from the comfort of their own living room – with a smartphone app.
Using a special linked device, the innovative programme also shows a live video of a sperm sample and offers a lifestyle programme, devised by fertility experts, which – its makers claim – will improve conception chances within 90 days.
Danish-developed ExSeed uses the same software found in fertility clinics. It analyses the most common causes of male infertility – low sperm count and low motility, when sperm are poor quality and can’t swim well.
ExSeed co-founder Morten Ulsted says that while there are home apps to help women conceive – such as trackers to tell them when they’re ovulating – there are few options for men, who are often too embarrassed to seek medical advice.
Using a special linked device, the innovative programme also shows a live video of a sperm sample and offers a lifestyle programme, devised by fertility experts, which – its makers claim – will improve conception chances within 90 days (stock image)
The company surveyed 1,000 men aged 25 to 54 in the UK and found that while 43 per cent of men were concerned about their fertility, only 18 per cent wanted to get tested and just five per cent had actually been tested – a big discrepancy.
‘There’s still a stigma around male fertility problems,’ said Mr Ulsted. ‘Men don’t want to go into a clinic.
‘We thought that by creating ExSeed we could make a high-quality medical device that would create awareness of male infertility, help to tackle the stigma and remove the onus on women to get tested first.’
ExSeed has already been used by more than 100 men in Denmark, with seven reported pregnancies to date.
The company is now planning a British trial in the hope that ExSeed – which currently costs £150 for a device and five tests – might be available on the NHS in the future.
To test sperm with ExSeed, a man places a sample on a glass slide provided, then inserts it into a special device and places this underneath his smartphone camera, allowing him to see his sample in real-time.
Using pre-programmed algorithms, the ExSeed app processes the video feed and can determine sperm quality and motility – mimicking the process undertaken in fertility labs.
It gives an instant result and then provides personalised recommendations on how to improve sperm quality and overall health. A follow-up test 90 days later will show how effective changes have been.
ExSeed has already been used by more than 100 men in Denmark, with seven reported pregnancies to date (stock image)
The app also facilitates access to fertility clinics and doctors.
Research shows men can do a lot to improve their fertility, such as giving up smoking and cutting down on alcohol and junk food.
One 2018 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology demonstrated that 24 weeks of resistance training, three times a week, can help to improve sperm concentration by 25 per cent and sperm motility by 40 per cent.
Erik Maigaard Filtenborg, 33, a bank branch manager and his wife Philippa, 34, a TV reporter, from Copenhagen, have successfully used ExSeed to help them conceive.
They met in 2011 and, in 2015, started trying for a baby. ‘I’d never questioned my own fertility,’ says Erik. ‘But after ten months of trying, nothing was happening. The doctor shook his head and told us to go home and try some more.’
Earlier this year, a friend told the couple about ExSeed. The app flagged up problems with his sperm count and motility – and he was given a lifestyle plan to follow. ‘I ate too much takeaway food and probably had too much stress,’ he admits. ‘Now I have a minimum of three balanced meals per day. I cut down on alcohol, started doing 30 minutes exercise per day and even turned off the seat heating in the car. I also take vitamin supplements and eat more fish and vegetables, and I’ve cut down on sweets.’
Within six months of using ExSeed, Philippa had conceived.
Their baby daughter is due in three weeks. ‘We’re convinced it has helped us achieve pregnancy, which didn’t happen in the two years before,’ adds Erik.
Fertility experts have welcomed the device.
Peter Humaidan, Professor in Reproductive Endocrinology at the Fertility Clinic, Skive Regional Hospital, Denmark said: ‘It can help detect potential problems and helps men to take action to help themselves.’
But Vinod Nargund, Consultant Urologist at Create Fertility in London, urges caution, claiming ExSeed’s test ‘isn’t detailed enough’ and that some diseases causing sperm problems might be missed. He says: ‘Not all patients need lifestyle advice. Some might need surgical intervention and other advice.’