Approximately 11 million U.S. couples try to conceive every year, but 15% of them will experience infertility, defined as being unable to conceive following at least a year of unprotected intercourse. According to Dr. Brian Levine, New York practice director for the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, a multistate fertility practice,
“Nearly half of fertility problems originate with the male partner, however, couples have had few options for tackling the male half of the conception equation.
Failure to identify low sperm counts as a contributing factor to infertility can “hinder timely treatment and ultimately slow the conception process,” according to Ken Mosesian Executive Director of Path2Parenthood, a nonprofit organization committed to helping parents find a streamlined path to having a child.
Sperm counts have fallen significantly over the last several decades due to a variety of factors. For example, one study documented that obese men had a 19 times higher odds of having a low total sperm count (95% CI 2.2–177.3) compared with men with a normal BMI. Another showed that sleep disturbances were associated with reduced semen quality in a cross-sectional study of 953 healthy young Danish men. Tobacco smoking, as well as stress, has also been shown to reduce semen quality. Even hot tub exposure has been reported to be a potentially reversible cause of low semen quality in infertile men. In an anecdotal N of 1 experiment (and brilliant marketing move), Sandstone’s founder, Greg Sommers, used the social media platform Medium to publish his personal account of doubling his sperm count by losing 15 pounds.
Until now, the diagnosis of low sperm count has required a visit to a urologist or fertility specialist for collection and analysis of a semen sample. But, men may delay getting the test done because they are embarrassed by the process of producing a semen sample outside of the privacy of their home. The Trak offers couples a do-it-yourself alternative to both screen and monitor key male fertility parameters at home as opposed to having to go to a doctor’s office for a semen analysis.
The Trak male fertility testing system
The Trak consists of a battery powered mini-centrifuge, a collection cup, a dropper, and disposable, single-use test cartridges. The man collects the sample in the cup and then uses the dropper to load it into the cartridge. The cartridge is then placed in the centrifuge which begins to spin for a pre-determined amount of time when the lid is closed (if the lid is accidentally opened too soon, an error occurs and the process must be repeated). By spinning the sample, sperm cells (which are the most dense components of semen) sediment out of the sample and collect in the outer region of the test cartridge. The size of the sperm cell pellet correlates with the concentration of cells.
Here is how it works:
But is it reliable?
Here is what we know from the published literature:
A three-site clinical trial comparing 239 untrained users self-reported results with reference results obtained by computer-aided semen analysis (CASA) concluded that “The Trak System is an accurate tool for semiquantitatively measuring sperm concentration in the home.”
The Trak is more than just a test kit
Trak’s mobile app helps men monitor their key fertility stats over time and correlate changes in sperm count to certain lifestyle changes known to impact sperm (diet, hot tubbing, exercise). Men can, then, take steps to improve their health and chances of conception. As Greg told me when I interviewed him in 2015:
“Trak is more than just a test kit…it’s a comprehensive solution to help you conceive.”
Here is a video that explains the functionality of the app: