Male fertility can be a sensitive and personal subject, so it’s no wonder that couples or partners looking to get pregnant often opt for at-home sperm testing kits instead of seeing a doctor. Yet even for men who have no qualms discussing or exploring their fertility status face-to-face, the sheer convenience and cost-savings of delivery is hard to beat in an era where delivery — accelerated by COVID — is the new normal.
Understanding male fertility is made easier by startups such as Fellow, which offers at-home testing at a cost far, far lower than traditional fertility clinics. Fellow’s DIY fertility kits are easy to use, convenient, and are of course, taken in the comfort of the man’s own home. They can be very useful for those who don’t have a fertility clinic nearby or are wary of going in-person for any reason.
Why are male fertility kits so useful?
Source: Fellow Fertility
When a couple has problems conceiving, male infertility is the cause of only around 30% of these issues. Still, getting a test done sooner than later can be a huge time-saver and help you create a fertility problem-solving road map.
With an infertility specialist, a typical semen analysis will inspect:
- Semen volume
- Sperm count
- Sperm concentration
- Movement (called motility)
- Vitality (what percentage of sperm are alive)
- Shape (also called morphology)
- And, sometimes, Acidity or pH.
Some male at-home fertility kits only measure sperm count, the number of sperm that can be found in the semen ejaculated during an orgasm and an important factor in male fertility. Other kits only measure if sperm are present in the semen or not. To compare and contrast, we have reviewed other male fertility kits as well.
There are also at-home kits that are meant to work with a smartphone and use the smartphone’s camera to video the sperm sample. Often, companies will offer a separate device that attaches to your phone for measuring sperm concentration and movement, a method comparable to what fertility clinics might do.
How do at-home male fertility kits work?
Here’s the way most kits (including Fellow’s) work:
- Purchase an at-home fertility kit online and provide the address where you’d like it delivered. For your comfort and privacy, the packaging is discrete and unassuming.
- Once the kit arrives, you’ll register it and then deposit your sperm sample. Samples are easy to contaminate though, so extra care must be taken when handling to make sure that the sample remains intact. Sperm die quickly once ejaculated, so you’ll want to complete this part asap. Reading the enclosed instructions really helps. With Fellow, the sample is mailed back to be analyzed at a lab, though it’s worth noting some other competing fertility tests can be tested at home.
- Most fertility kit results are ready just a couple of days after lab testing. Fellow delivers results within one!
- The fertility report is evaluated, and in some cases, there are even videos of your swimmers available.
- Optionally, sperm can be stored for future use. Fellow offers this service in addition to its lab testing. If you’re especially interested in sperm storage services, you can also look into Dadi or Legacy as alternative options.
What is Fellow Fertility and how are they different?
While most at-home kits do not analyze all of the things that an in-clinic assessment would, Fellow’s does. They measure the volume, concentration, count, motility, and morphology of samples, giving you the thorough analysis of a traditional fertility clinic, but at a much more cost-effective rate.
Results are reviewed by a physician before they are sent back, and samples are processed in a lab that is CLIA-certified. If you’re also wondering how Fellow has worked around the problem of sperm dying once they are ejaculated, this at-home kit also offers a special preservation solution that stabilizes the sperm sample in the process of shipping back to the lab. Don’t fret over the shipping either — Fellow covers the cost of all overnight packages.
In tandem with their convenient at-home semen analysis kit, Fellow also can provide you access to a licensed clinician to discuss your results. They also just recently launched sperm storage so you can save healthy swimmers for later use.
How much does Fellow cost?
Fellow has a one-time cost of $189. It’s slightly cheaper than Dadi or Legacy, and the results are arguably more accurate. We spoke to Fellow’s team directly and they said their kit is the “only mail-in semen analysis that provides the same results as what you’d receive at a fertility clinic or your doctor’s office”, which is supported by a recently released peer-reviewed manuscript — the only one of its kind — announced recently via a UCSF press release. The manuscript confirms Fellow’s claim to the mantle of being the only mail-in semen analysis so far that is as accurate as an in-clinic analysis.
Fellow Reviews: What are customers saying about their fertility test?
Below are screenshots of reviews left on Fellow’s website, where their rating at the time of this review is written is 4.7/5 stars. A common trend among Fellow fertility reviews is the ease of using the kit at home (but this is not unique to Fellow). Many users are glad they were spared the trouble and expense going to a clinic, especially during the pandemic.
Many users say that the entire experience of using Fellow was professional, fast, and simple. Others said that the team is “super knowledgeable”. Users were also pleased that they used Fellow to see if their vasectomies had/hadn’t worked, because the results were helpful.
One user brought up the point that fertility clinics weren’t covered by his insurance, so Fellow was a great option, and was far cheaper.
I did find a couple reviews that bring up a good point to remember, and that is that there is no support community associated with or provided by Fellow. They only do the clinical side of the test, and not the emotional and mental wellbeing side that fertility tests so often require. That said, they do offer free consultations with a nurse practitioner with over 15 years of fertility expertise.
The Verdict: Is Fellow’s at-home male fertility kit legit?
Long story short: yes, Fellow’s mail-in tests are as reliable as fertility tests taken in traditional clinics. Their preservation solution is a clever way around the problem of sperm death as well, helping to maintain the integrity of the sample to preserve accuracy. Men who use Fellow can also rest assured that their tests will be handled in a CLIA-certified lab, and that their results will be checked by a physician before being returned to them.
The price tag of $189 is not as the cheapest tests like YO sperm (whose smartphone-based test isn’t nearly as robust), but comparable to other at-home fertility kits like Dadi’s which costs $199, and cheaper than Legacy, whose prices range from $195 to a whopping $3,995. And of course, all are still WAY cheaper than visiting a fertility clinic in-person.
Fellow can also store your sperm samples after they have been processed at an additional cost, which could be advantageous if you’re not planning to have kids for several years. Again, you can compare Dadi or Legacy as viable alternatives if storage is particularly important for you. Overall, Fellow is a sound choice for at-home fertility testing.
What can be improved about Fellow’s fertility test?
Fellow fertility kits aren’t available in Maryland and New York currently, but likely soon will be once they are granted regulatory approval to operate in those states. Fellow can’t service Hawaii or Alaska either at this time because kits wouldn’t be able to be shipped back to their labs in time to meet Fellow’s cut offs.
Another potential criticism of Fellow is that they don’t offer much support aside from the clinical results. People taking fertility tests can often have a complex emotional journey, and Fellow doesn’t have any sort of community or post-test support to deal with results that are unsatisfactory. Fellow does however, offer free video consultations with their licensed clinician to discuss your lab results and goals. Most other at-home kits charge extra for this 1-1 consultation with a clinician.
The Verdict — is Fellow legit for semen analysis and storage?
All told, Fellow is a fantastic choice for men looking for a straightforward, fuss-free at-home fertility kit. Ideal candidates include:
- men who have been told by a doctor to get a semen analysis or cryopreserve a sample
- men who are trying to conceive
- men looking to see if their vasectomies or vasectomy reversals are successful
- men who are just curious about their fertility
- men who want to store their sperm sample for future use
Fellow Fertility FAQs
Fellow delivery and return boxes are discreet, so they can be shipped to a home or an office and sent to the post office without strange looks. Fellow also eradicates samples after they’re processed, and stores results separately from personal information.
The Fellow at-home testing kit is available in all continental United States EXCEPT:
- New York
- Rhode Island
Fellow is a great fit for those who wish to have a family one day, are about to begin trying for a child, simply wish to check on their health, and those who want to check on the success of their vasectomy.
The price paid is refundable until the kit is shipped. Once shipment has started though, refunds are typically not possible.
Inside the at-home kit, there is a container (for the sample), a vial of the preservation solution, instructions, a gel pack (to keep the sample at a good temperature), and a temperature sensor. The kit is sent to the recipient in a box that has a discardable outer box. The kit is the return shipment box and already has the return label on it.
The kit itself doesn’t have an expiration date, but the vial of preservation solution does. They typically last for 6 months, so you have plenty of time, but if the solution has expired before you’re ready to use the kit, they will send a replacement vial.
Fellow states that the sample should be created after the man has abstained for 48 hours to five days. This means no sex, no masturbation, and no ejaculation at all leading up to your sample deposit. Store-bought lube should not be used as they usually contain spermicides (chemicals that kill sperm) and any other form of lubricant (like spit or lotion) will introduce bacteria to the sample.
The sample should not be made when you’re feeling sick, so waiting to feel better is a good idea.