Pa. inventor believes in ‘The Stork’

    A Pennsylvania entrepreneur says he’s created a device that could help couples trying to have a baby.

    It’s called The Stork.

    CEO Stephen Bollinger says the technique—called intracervical insemination—places a high concentration of semen outside the opening of the uterus.

    “Our novelty is that I have a condom-like receptacle device. So couples make love in the normal process. Instead of throwing it in the trash, they grab the condom, they roll it back into a configuration called a cervical cap. If a male can use a condom and a female can use a tampon, they have the opportunity to use this in the privacy of their own home,” Bollinger said.

    The Pittsburgh company, which recently raised $4 million from investors, must now convince the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the product for sale.

    Some estimates suggest that more than one in eight U.S. couples have difficulty conceiving. And Bollinger is betting that many people will pay for at-home conception assistance.

    “Everybody’s heard of a turkey baster, right?” he said. “So there’s been a lot of homemade things, but nothing’s been really designed.”

    Bollinger said he’ll market the device to healthy people who aren’t sure why they are having trouble, not to couples with serious, diagnosed fertility issues.

    There is no research yet on how well the device works.

    “The way I react to these things is that I want to see the studies before I pooh-pooh it or endorse it,” said endocrinologist Christos Coutifaris, director of Penn Fertility Care at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Coutifaris said, on first review, it’s not clear to him how The Stork would be a more efficient delivery system than the male anatomy.

    Still, he said, speaking only theoretically, such a device might work with donated sperm.

    “I can see how that may be of use,” Coutifaris said. “The question is where do they get the sperm?”

    He also wonders about the safety of encouraging couples to handle specimens on their own at home.

    Barbara Collura is the executive director of Resolve, the National Infertility Association.

    She said The Stork would likely interest single women and lesbian couples who want to have a child.

    “They may have a physician who is against [it]. We hear that a lot: ‘I don’t want to treat you, or I won’t treat you.’ People are getting donated sperm and figuring out a way to get it in themselves,” she said.

    The Stork would require a prescription and sell for about $79.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.