£2 fertility cups that ‘retain semen’ and promise to increase chances of getting pregnant are being sold to desperate couples on eBay — but experts warn they could cause deadly infections
- EXCLUSIVE: MailOnline found dozens of fertility devices touted to Brits on eBay
- They included ‘cups’ for women to insert after sex and ‘fertility tests’ for men
- But fertility chiefs have warned the products could potentially damage health
Cheap and dangerous fertility devices are being sold to desperate couples on eBay, MailOnline can reveal.
Experts warned the products – some of which need to be inserted into a woman’s vagina – could cause deadly infections or allergic reactions.
This website found dozens of examples being sold for as little as £2 which claim to boost the chance of becoming pregnant.
They included ‘cups’ for women to insert for up to 12 hours after sex to ‘retain sperm’ and boost the chance of becoming pregnant, as well as male ‘fertility tests’ which promise to provide an ‘accurate sperm count’.
The ‘cups’ used by women could be made from unregulated materials and trigger toxic shock syndrome, when bacteria gets into the body and causes a life-threatening reaction, experts said.
And the fertility tests, which are not regulated or approved, run the risk of a faulty result, natural alternative to doxycycline for acne they warned.
Men should turn to a GP if they are struggling to conceive in case they have an underlying health problem, the experts added.
This website found dozens of products online targeted at couples trying to conceive. A ‘Flex Disc’, which costs £10 for a packet of three, claims to be a ‘baby making’ device that women insert into the vagina for after sex and wear for up to 12 hours. The seller claims it is a ‘proven’ aid that works by sitting ‘up at the cervix and helps [semen] get on their way’
A silicone Fertility Cup is also available, which instructs women to insert it after sex to ‘retain sperm for up to eight hours’. It also states sperm can be deposited directly into the cup before it is put into the vagina
The cheapest version of these products, branded a ‘sperm collector’, is sold for just £1.74. No instructions for using the product are available
Meanwhile, male fertility tests are also being sold on eBay from £7.95. The products claim to give an accurate sperm count within minutes. Some pharmacies, including Boots and Superdrug, also sell versions of sperm tests. But they warn customers to make an appointment with their doctor for further tests if the device shows a low result
Fertility problems are thought to affect one in seven couples in the UK.
Treatments including medicines, surgical procedures and assisted conception – such as IVF – are available to couples struggling to get pregnant.
But experts told MailOnline there is a growing trend of people seeking out their own healthcare needs as NHS waits continue to get longer.
MailOnline found dozens of products online targeted at couples trying to conceive.
Infertility is when a couple cannot get pregnant (conceive) despite having regular unprotected sex.
Around 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving.
About 84 per cent of couples will conceive naturally within a year if they have regular unprotected sex — defined as every two to three days.
For couples who have been trying to conceive for more than three years without success, the likelihood of getting pregnant naturally within the next year is one in four, or less.
Britons are advised to speak to their GP if they were unable to get pregnant after one year of trying.
Infertility is usually caused by a lack of regular ovulation, poor quality semen, blocked or damaged fallopian tubes and endometriosis.
Fertility can also be impacted by age, weight, sexually transmitted infections, smoking, alcohol, exposure to pesticides and stress.
Fertility treatments include medicines to encourage regular ovulation, surgical procedures to repair fallopian tubes or scarring and assisted contraception, such as IVF.
A ‘Flex Disc’, which costs £10 for a packet of three, claims to be a ‘baby making’ device that women insert into the vagina for after sex and wear for up to 12 hours.
The seller claims it is a ‘proven’ aid that works by sitting ‘up at the cervix and helps [semen] get on their way’.
A silicone Fertility Cup is also available, which instructs women to insert it after sex to ‘retain sperm for up to eight hours’.
It also states sperm can be deposited directly into the cup before it is put into the vagina.
The cheapest version of these products, branded a ‘sperm collector’, is sold for just £1.74. No instructions for using the product are available.
Some couples have told of their success after using the sperm-catching cups, which are put into the vagina after sex to stop semen from escaping.
Kate Bennison, 36, from Redcar in Yorkshire, became pregnant in December after unsuccessfully trying for a second baby for half a year after using a £49 ‘twoplus sperm guide’, which works in a similar way to the devices sold on eBay.
Clare Ettinghausen, director of strategy and corporate affairs at the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, warned such devices could cause harm and likely do not work.
She said: ‘There are many products available to patients that claim to enhance their fertility but many of these claims are unproven and, in some cases, could be damaging to their health.
‘Patients looking for fertility advice should speak to their GP or clinic.’
And Dr James Hopkisson, medical director at TFP Fertility Group, told MailOnline: ‘We will never be able to regulate this sort of market and consumers should be aware of the limited evidence base for these types of devices in improving fertility.’
EBay took down several of the listings after being alerted by MailOnline but there were still several other similar devices live at the time of writing.
An eBay spokesperson said: ‘We have strict policies in place to ensure that any medical product sold on eBay is not misleading and does not pose a risk to our community.
‘We have removed some of these products and will work closely with stakeholders, including the MHRA, to confirm if any others breach our policies.’
Medical devices sold in the UK are subject to regulation and checks by the medicines watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Any adverse events reported to sellers must then be fed back to the MHRA.
‘Unregulated devices may not have this oversight,’ Dr Hopkisson said. This means they may not be tested or safe to use.
He said fertility products inserted into the vagina could trigger toxic shock syndrome — a rare but life-threatening condition caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins.
The condition is often caused by tampons and barrier contraception — such as a diaphragm — being left in too long.
There is a ‘theoretical risk’ that fertility products could trigger the same problem, especially if they break the skin when inserted, Dr Hopkisson added.
Meanwhile, male fertility tests are also being sold on eBay from £7.95. The products claim to give an accurate sperm count within minutes.
Some pharmacies, including Boots and Superdrug, also sell versions of sperm tests.
But they warn customers to make an appointment with their doctor for further tests if the device shows a low result.
Laureate Professor John Aitken, a reproductive biologist at the University of Newcastle in Australia, said people seeking out at-home tests is part of a ‘general trend in medicine’ of patients ‘trying to gain as much control as possible over their own healthcare needs’.
But he warned any test results from tests sold online have to be ‘carefully confirmed and discussed with healthcare professionals’.
Medics can put the results into context and inform patients ‘what the results actually mean, in terms of their fertility potential’, Professor Aitken added.
Dr Hopkisson warned delays in conception should be alerted to a person’s GP because ‘risk factors’ could be contributing to problems getting pregnant.
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