Colorado's investment in IUDs and other fire-and-forget birthcontrol produced a "miracle"

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative spent comparatively small sums making IUDs and other long-term birth control methods (such as implants and injections) available to women, through a "no wrong door" approach that let women start their journey through a variety of agencies, and included after-school and other counseling services, and also provided birth control to women on maternity wards before they went home with their babies. Read the rest

The mathematics of how sperm swim

A better understanding how a sperm swims its way toward an egg could help inform new treatments for male infertility. Researchers from the University of York have now come up with a mathematical formula to model how large numbers of moving sperm interact with fluid they're swimming through. From the University:

By analysing the head and tail movements of the sperm, researchers have now shown that the sperm moves the fluid in a coordinated rhythmic way, which can be captured to form a relatively simple mathematical formula. This means complex and expensive computer simulations are no longer needed to understand how the fluid moves as the sperm swim.

The research demonstrated that the sperm has to make multiple contradictory movements, such as moving backwards, in order to propel it forward towards the egg.

The whip-like tail of the sperm has a particular rhythm that pulls the head backwards and sideways to create a jerky fluid flow, countering some of the intense friction that is created due to their diminutive sizes.

“It is true when scientists say how miraculous it is that a sperm ever reaches an egg, but the human body has a very sophisticated system of making sure the right cells come together," (says University of York mathematician Hermes Gadêlha.)

“You would assume that the jerky movements of the sperm would have a very random impact on the fluid flow around it, making it even more difficult for competing sperm cells to navigate through it, but in fact you see well defined patterns forming in the fluid around the sperm.

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Smartphone microscope and app for testing your sperm

YO is an FDA-cleared sperm quality analyzer for your smartphone. It consists of a detachable mini microscope and light that clips to your mobile phone. You "acquire" a sperm sample, drop it into the YO Clip, and the app records a video of your sperm in action and analyzes the activity. Available in January, you can pre-order two tests for $50. I bet the app has social media integration so if you have strong swimmers, you can proudly share the proof with your friends.

"Extensive testing has been performed on the YO Home Sperm Test—over four years to be exact," Marcia Deutsch, CEO of Medical Electronic Systems, the parent company of YO Sperm Test and producer of commercial-grade semen analyzers for major labs, tells Fit Pregnancy. "The technology is able to read the sperm sample 99 percent of the time, as long as the instructions are followed. [If it can read the test] the results are more than 97 percent accurate based on FDA studies of 316 participants."

Because it's an over-the-counter product, Deutsch says the test can't reveal actual values, but rather gives a reading of "low" or "moderate/normal" based on World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for sperm motility (how well they move) and concentration (how many there are). The test reports a composite of these two parameters called "motile sperm concentration," or the number of moving sperm.

YO Sperm Test (via Uncrate) Read the rest

The history of the home pregnancy test is a microcosm of misogyny, chauvinism, and erasure

When Pagan Kennedy wrote her 2012 New York Times Magazine history of home pregnancy testing, it didn't mention Margaret Crane, the product designer who created, designed and championed the test and all it stood for: the right of "a woman to peer into her own body and to make her own decisions about it, without anyone else — husband, boyfriend, boss, doctor — getting in the way." Read the rest

Pregnancy-tracking app was riddled with vulnerabilities, exposing extremely sensitive personal information

Consumer Reports Labs tested Glow, a very popular menstrual cycle/fertility-tracking app, and found that the app's designers had made a number of fundamental errors in the security and privacy design of the app, which would make it easy for stalkers or griefers to take over the app, change users' passwords, spy on them, steal their identities, and access extremely intimate data about the millions of women and their partners who use the app. Read the rest

Chicks hatched without eggshells are cool, but not new

A video making the rounds shows fertilized chicken eggs incubated outside their shells. It's fascinating, but not a first. Read the rest

Man invents implantable switch to turn on/off male birth control

Clemens Bimek invented a shut-off valve for the vas deferens, the tubes that bring sperm from the testicles out of a man's body. The Bimek SLV Spermatic Duct Valve is essentially a vasectomy with a gummy bear-sized on/off switch that you control from outside. So far, Bimek himself is the only person outfitted with the devices. He's currently seeking investment and medical approval for commercialization in his home country of Germany and beyond. From the company site:

(In 1998, while) watching a health advice program on TV, Clemens Bimek saw a segment about vasectomies, an operation he had never heard of before. He then asked himself: “Why not just insert a valve instead?” At the time he passed the patent office in Berlin-Kreuzberg everyday on his way to the construction site, where he worked. One day he decided to do some research on the topic and discovered that a few developments had already been attempted in this direction, but to him, these methods seemed overly complicated and therefore impractical. Bimek had, from that point, begun to further develop his ideas and to work on a first prototype...

(In 2008, after developing the idea and prototypes) Clemens Bimek attempted to convince different urologists to perform the valve implantation on him. A few were prepared to do this, but were stopped by the ethics committee at each clinic. He finally found a microsurgical specialist, who allowed him to observe 3 vasovasostomies. The specialist stated that he was prepared to implant the valve for Bimek’s self experiment and even obtained approval from the relevant ethics committee.

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iSperm: sperm analyzer for iPad

Taiwanese med-tech firm Admits hopes to get FDA approval to bring its iPad-based livestock sperm analyzer to the US for at-home human fertility testing. Read the rest

Decline in fertility after age 30 may be vastly overstated

As a woman, you do become less fertile as you get older, eventually culminating in menopause and the end of your potential babymaking years. But what does "less fertile" mean, and at what age, and how quickly does the drop-off in fertility happen?

According to this really fascinating piece by Jean Twenge at The Atlantic, some of the commonly cited scare stats — that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, say — are based on extremely old data collected from historical birth records that don't necessarily reflect what's happening with real women who are alive right now. That statistic mentioned above, for instance, comes from French records (likely those collected by local church baptismal registries) for the years 1670 to 1830.

That matters because fertility is affected by things like quality of nutrition, infection rates, and even childhood illnesses — all of which have changed drastically for the average Western woman since the 19th century.

Look at more modern records, and the outlook for post-30 babymaking is completely different. Read the rest

The only good abortion is my abortion

As I write this, it is 1:17 am on Wednesday, June 20th, 2012.

I am lying awake in bed, trying to decide whether or not to have an abortion.

Of course, we don’t call it an abortion. We call it “a procedure” or a D&C. See, my potential abortion is one of the good abortions. I’m 31 years old. I’m married. These days, I’m pretty well off. I would very much like to stay pregnant right now. In fact, I have just spent the last year—following an earlier miscarriage—trying rather desperately to get pregnant.

Unfortunately, the doctors tell me that what I am now pregnant with is not going to survive. Last week, I had an ultrasound, I was almost 6 weeks along and looked okay. The only thing was that the heartbeat was slow. It wasn’t a huge deal. Heartbeats start slow, usually around the 6th week, and then they speed up. But my doctor asked me to come back in this week for a follow up, just to be sure. That was Tuesday, yesterday. Still my today. The heart hasn’t sped up. The fetus hasn’t grown. The egg yolk is now bigger than the fetus, which usually indicates a chromosomal abnormality. Basically, this fetus is going to die. I am going to have a miscarriage. It’s just a matter of when.

Because of these facts—all these facts—I get special privileges, compared to other women seeking abortion in the state of Minnesota. Read the rest