National Infertility Awareness Week – Day Four – Woman’s Hour

Today’s Woman’s Hour, on BBC Radio Four, featured the story mentioned here yesterday about home sperm tests in a discussion with Tim Child from Oxford Fertility Unit and journalist Victoria Lambert.  As expected, the official line on home sperm testing is that you are far better off going to your GP and having it done properly, but the discussion also raised some wider issues.

Jenni Murray seemed quite genuinely surprised when Tim Child referred to infertility as a disease; it’s the idea that not being able to have children is somehow more about lifestyle that fuels the arguments about not funding treatment so it was good to hear Tim Child explain it so clearly.

The other big issue that came up during the discussion was the idea that infertility was somehow a woman’s problem – Victoria Lambert pointed out that although a number of female celebrities have now come out of the closet about their struggles to conceive, there aren’t similar numbers of male celebrities discussing their fertility problems – despite the fact that a fertility problem is just as likely to be down to the male partner as to the female.

I was particularly pleased to hear education being addressed – it’s so true that we focus all our attention on preventing pregnancy when we talk to teenagers about sex education, but in reality the odds show that they are far more likely to have a fertility problem in the future than to get pregnant at 15. Even now, some women are surprised to discover that fertility treatment can’t turn back the biological clock – and it’s a message we need to get across.

It was good to hear these issues aired during National Infertility Awareness Week – if you didn’t hear the programme, you can still catch it here – we must just hope that raising awareness will have a longer-term effect on attitudes and understanding.

Home fertility tests for men

DownloadedFile-17If you’ve read about the home fertility tests for men which you can buy over-the-counter, you may be interested to listen to BBC Woman’s Hour tomorrow morning where fertility specialist Tim Child from the Oxford Fertility Unit will be discussing the issue.

The tests, which cost £30 and take ten minutes, claim to give you the opportunity to check whether a man’s sperm is “normal” or “low”.  Although the test is apparently not bad at checking the number of sperm in the sample, what it can’t do is test how healthy they are – which is not ideal as having lots of sperm doesn’t necessarily mean that they are capable of fertilising an egg if the majority are abnormal.

Most family doctors will carry out a free sperm test if there are problems conceiving, and as this should be far more accurate I am not quite sure why you’d want to spend £30 on doing it at home when it will be far less accurate – but let’s see what the experts have to say about it tomorrow!