Health: Can a Man Make a Baby?

It takes two people to make a baby, but many men have been in denial about a related fact: it can also take two not to make one. When a couple can't conceive, about half the time the trouble lies not with the woman's body but with the man's. Many men see infertility as a female problem, and if they suffer it themselves, they take the diagnosis personally. In surveys, they report feeling "emasculated" or like "losers." They're often "reluctant to even come into the clinic" for sperm testing, says Keith Isaacson, a reproductive endocrinologist at Harvard Medical School, either because they think the doctor won't be able to tell them what's wrong—or don't want him to.

It's time to say goodbye to both those excuses. Scientists last week identified a protein defect that may explain many cases of male infertility (it's also implicated in some female cases), so docs can understand and eventually treat the condition more effectively. This week, Fertell, a his-and-hers home test that's been popular for the past year in Britain, is making its U.S. debut, allowing men to check their fertility at home. Taking the doc out of the equation removes some of the embarrassment, so the home test is easier to face than a clinic visit. A company called BabyStart already has a male-fertility test on the market, but it measures only sperm count; Fertell tells the patient how many of those sperm are good swimmers. If a man has 10 million motile sperm per milliliter, he's probably good to go. Lower, and he should see a doctor.