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I Tested My Sperm Using Only My Phone And My Buddies Can Swim

I learned to start thinking things through more often.

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Hey, what's up, hello! I'm Anthony, and I happen to be the only man on the fabulous BuzzFeed Health team. (Oh, and that's my dog.)

Anthony Rivas

So naturally you can see why I'd be interested in men's health topics. But I'm also interested in a whole lot of other stuff too, like science, tech gadgets, and all that is taboo and awkward in this world. I secretly LIVE for awkward situations.

So you might call it fate when, one day in March, my team got a promotional email for the Yo Sperm Testing Kit.

Medical Electronic Systems / Via youtu.be

"Male fertility is an often overlooked component of reproductive health," the email said. "In particular, many men are afraid to test their sperm due to the stigma associated with male infertility — with YO Sperm Test, no uncomfortable trips to the doctor are necessary."

Now, being a health editor, I have no problem seeing a doctor and talking to them about my health issues. It's all natural — for the most part, anyway. But I could see how some men might be hesitant to see a doctor about their sperm — they could learn some surprising truths and *gasp* have to actually talk about it. (And god forbid it mess with their masculinity.)

Regardless, it's an uncomfortable situation when you're not used to these types of test. Unlike women, who have to see gynecologists, men aren't really told to see a urologist unless something is wrong. During physicals, our doctors normally just ask if we've been checking for lumps or abnormalities. And as for STIs, that stuff is taken care of with a blood test.

But the email thread was lit.

Universal Pictures / Via giphy.com

Some of the responses:

* "Omg IRL project." —Sally

* "This video is great, omg. WITHOUT ANY SPERM TOUCHING YOUR PHONE! I can't believe this is called YO SPERM." —Anna

* "The video of sperm is a really cool feature — like, I'd feel so much closer to it after this." —Caroline

And that's when I knew I had to try it. I really wanted to see my boys (or girls) on a screen. I wanted to feel closer to my sperm(!). And, I mean, it sounded like a really cool little science project — like those times in middle school biology class when I'd look through microscopes at amoebas and mitochondria. Only this time, it was my own cells. So cool! So I bided my time, and when the moment was ripe in the first week of May, I sprung. I got the OK from my editor, and ordered the kit.

The Yo kit has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, and is 97% effective at testing for motile sperm concentration — aka the amount of moving sperm in a 1-milliliter sample. Through the app, the kit tells you whether you have more or less than 6 million moving sperm, and, by that measure, whether you have a moderate/normal range of motile sperm or a low range, which could mean you have fertility problems. Oh, and the best part? It shows you a short video of your sperm, taken from a microscope inside the attachment that goes on your phone.

I didn't actually realize what I was getting myself into until a week later.

PBS / Via giphy.com

It took a few days for me to finally sit down with our team's video producer, Caity, to go over the post and talk about the video component. But I eventually caught her on a Friday around 5 p.m., sitting in BuzzFeed's canteen with her boyfriend. I told her I was going to be analyzing my sperm with the test kit and we all actually had a pretty good laugh about it...but then it turned suuuuper awkward.

"So are you gonna jack off here or at home?" she asked. And in that moment I was shook! I suddenly had a ton of questions running through my head:

*Where am I going to be masturbating, though?

*Can I do that at work?

*Is it even legal to do that?

*Am I comfortable with this?

*Is Caity comfortable with this?

*What will her boyfriend think? Like I know we're cool — we've all hung out before — but this is borderline tew much.

I was so hype to see a video of my own sperm that I didn't even think about how we were going to get there. But like many other times in my somewhat-shameless life, I dived right in anyway.

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The Yo Sperm Test is meant to be used at home, so that's where we planned to do it.

Caity Arthur / BuzzFeed News

I wasn't sure what to expect, tbh. Like, we were about to get up close and personal with my sperm in front of a camera. And what if I found out I actually did have fertility problems? Not only would the video take a drastic turn — it was supposed to be fun and funny — but I'd have to re-evaluate all sorts of things I do on a daily basis, since I had never had a serious health problem besides some injuries here and there.

Before I got started, I decided to speak with Dr. Brian Levine of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine to get an idea of what I should be looking for.

ccrmivf.com

He told me that fertility doctors normally test three parameters:

*Concentration: The total number of sperm per milliliter, almost always in the millions.

*Motility: What percentage of the cells are swimming vs. not swimming.

*Morphology: The shape of the sperm. (How many are shaped as they should be vs. shaped abnormally?)

Every person will score differently on each of these parameters, but according to Levine, the higher their score on each, the better chance they'll have of making a baby. By comparison, the Yo kit and other sperm-testing kits, like Trak's, only test one of these parameters, Levine said. While the Yo kit tests for motility, the Trak kit tests for concentration. "But to really do fertility testing, it's a three-part assessment. So they're only both telling you part of the story," he told me.

I asked Levine to explain what the heck it will all mean.

Universal Pictures / Via giphy.com

Just because these tests each only look at one of the parameters that determine fertility doesn't mean they're not useful, though. Infertility is defined as the failure to achieve pregnancy after trying for 12 months, according to the World Health Organization. A lot of people want to believe infertility is just a female problem, Levine said, even though it's equally a problem for men and women. Forty percent of fertility problems are attributable to men and forty percent to women. The other 20% of the time the cause of infertility is unknown.

Using one of these tests offers a first look at your sperm, and gives you an idea of what you're dealing with. If you discover that you're on the low end of the fertility range then you can start to make some lifestyle changes that will help promote your sperm's health, Levine said, like quitting cigarettes, drinking less alcohol, not doing drugs, changing your diet, and exercising more (the Trak kit is useful in this instance because it actually gives you tips for managing these lifestyle factors). Or, of course, you could go see a doctor.

Armed with this male fertility knowledge, I was ready to take the test. And I gotta say, I was looking forward to it.

Caity Arthur / BuzzFeed News

Well, looking forward to everything except the awkward "jacking off" part. Caity was late to warn me that she was on her way so I had to get this ~sample~ out FAST. AND I COULDN'T USE LUBE OR LOTION OR ANYTHING (this kept the sample free of contaminants). So I'd be lying if I didn't say it was the most nerve-racking sesh I've ever had — way worse than those teenage days where I had to look out for my dad walking in on me at the family computer. I'm no quitter, though. I got it done, and once Caity arrived, we started testing.

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The makers of the Yo kit advertise that it only takes three minutes to complete the test. But that doesn't include prepping the sperm.

Caity Arthur / BuzzFeed News

Inside the kit, I found enough supplies to conduct two tests — sample cups, liquefying powder, pipettes, test slides, wipes for your phone, and the Yo Clip, which attaches to your phone and is where the magic happens.

The first thing we had to do, though, was get the sperm ready for the test. That meant pouring the liquefying powder into the cup with the sperm, swirling it around for a few seconds, then waiting around 10 minutes so that it could fully do its job. This turned the sperm a hot-pink color, and made it way more watery than it was before.

While I waited 10 minutes for the sperm to ~liquefy~, I took a pretty fun quiz.

Caity Arthur / BuzzFeed News

The app quizzed me while I waited, and of course, it was allll about sperm. It was a lot of fun, and I learned some new things. For example, did you know there's a cap-like structure called the acrosome on the head of the sperm, which melts the outer layer of the egg so that it can get in and make a baby? I DIDN'T. What about the fact that sperm can live inside a person's body for two to five days, which is important to keep in mind when it comes to pregnancy? MIND. BLOWN. This is serious, people.

Caity Arthur / BuzzFeed News

With the pipette (basically a simpler type of medicine dropper) I sucked up some of the sperm from the sample cup, and slowly squeezed it out onto the red dot on the test slide. All you needed was a drop or two to fill the little diamond. And then there it was — my sperm was finally ready for the three-minute test...and I was ready to discover my fertility's fate.

Three minutes later, my results were in, and as I had hoped, my sperm were most likely healthy!

Caity Arthur / BuzzFeed News

WOOO! I was so relieved to find out that I had a healthy amount of moving sperm — not that I thought I didn't, but I definitely wasn't ready for any bad news. And that's great for if and when I decide to have kids, assuming I don't start harming my sperm by smoking, drinking alcohol, not exercising, and the like.

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It was also really cool to see my sperm on the screen.

Caity Arthur / BuzzFeed News

Like, this was what I signed up for. Look at my boys swimming so erratically all over the place! I really couldn't fathom how one of them even made it to the egg. But then, among all those cells, I spotted a few that you could tell were the powerhouses of the bunch — I even named them after Pokémon characters. These guys were straight shooting. POWER SWIMMERS. Enter them in to the Olympics! I was so proud. But then I was sad, because it was time to say goodbye and throw them in the garbage.

It was an emotional roller coaster, to say the least.

By the end of it all, I definitely had mixed feelings.

Caity Arthur / BuzzFeed News

I could definitely see why some men might want to use this kit. It's super convenient to do this kind of basic fertility test in your home, where it's just you, your sperm, and maybe your partner. The test is pretty cheap too — for two sets of supplies it's only $50. By comparison, the Trak kit is $200, and comes with four sets of supplies.

That said, I didn't feel like there was much more I could get out of my results besides knowing that my sperm are most likely healthy and seeing video of them. When it comes down to it, the test really only gives you a yes or no answer — "yes" being a moderate/normal range, and "no" being a low range. I'd have loved to get a slightly more in-depth analysis. For example, did I barely break the six-million moving sperm mark, or did I have closer to 20 million moving in there?

Maybe that would have given me a better idea of my exact fertility, IDK.

On the flip side, if I had been in the low range, what would the next steps have been? I'd probably have had to get a doctor to test for concentration and morphology to give me a more rounded view of the health of my sperm. And even if I was using this to just casually track the health of my sperm over time (since you can reorder supplies), I wouldn't have known what to do with my results if they had come back as low — the app doesn't provide any advice on how to make your sperm healthier.

So I guess that regardless of what your results are, if you're seriously considering having a kid, going to see a doctor about your fertility is still your best bet. Not only will that give you a more accurate idea of all three factors that go into the health of your sperm, but they'll also be able to give you the advice you need to make your sperm strong. But for me personally, I'm not jumping on the baby train just yet...so I'll worry about all that later.

My awkward little experiment got everyone talking about my sperm, their sperm, and just sperm in general. That's a win, right? Here's the full video if you wanna see how it all went down.

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