TIME Underwear

This Underwear Can Protect You From Radiation Exposure

Courtesy Wireless Armour

It'll keep your swimmers swimming.

Wireless Armour is a new line of underwear for men, developed by British scientist Joseph Perkins, that supposedly protects your unmentionables from 99.9% of electromagnetic radiation.

Results of a study posted on the Wireless Armour website showed that radiation emitted from WiFi devices, like the smartphone in your pocket or the computer on your lap, killed 1/4 of the sperm sample after just 4 hours of exposure, proving that all your Tinder and OK Cupid activity might seriously damage your fertility.

The underwear is made from a fabric called RadiaText, which is a blend of cotton and silver. Because silver is a top conductor of electricity, it creates an “unbroken shield” against the radiation, according to the website. The blend makes it both soft and strong, and the silver makes the underwear “highly anti-microbial,” ergo more hygienic.

Prices range from £24 to £35 (about $37 to $55), but can you really put a price on your crown jewels?

TIME fertility

Frozen Eggs Have A Lower Live Birth Rate Than Fresh Eggs, Study Says

An in-vitro-fertilization in progress
BSIP/;UIG/Getty Images An in-vitro-fertilization in progress

You may be less likely to have a baby with a frozen egg than with a fresh one

Parents attempting to start a family using donated or frozen eggs are often told that frozen eggs behave just like fresh ones, but a new study has found that in-vitro fertilization with frozen eggs has a significantly lower live birth rate.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, IVF cycles that use frozen eggs have a lower live birth rate than cycles done with fresh eggs. Researchers led by Dr. Vitaly A. Kushnir from the Center for Human Reproduction examined data from 11,148 egg donation cycles performed in 380 U.S. clinics in 2013, including 2,227 that used frozen eggs. For each IVF cycle, the live birth rates were 50% with fresh eggs, and 43% with frozen eggs. For each embryo transfer, 56% of embryos created with fresh eggs resulted in a live birth, compared to 47% of embryos created with frozen eggs.

Eggs are frozen using a quick-freeze vitrification process, a development which caused the American Society of Reproductive Medicine to lift the “experimental” label from egg-freezing in late 2012. Eggs can be frozen either to delay the mother’s own fertility, or to donate to another couple. But just because egg-freezing is no longer considered “experimental” doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing.

Read More: What You Really Need to Know About Freezing Your Eggs

Dr. Kushnir says the disparity in live birth rates could be partly explained by the fact that patients tend to start with a larger number of fresh eggs than frozen eggs, since donated frozen eggs are often packaged in smaller bundles. “If you start with 10 embryos rather than 5 embryos, you have a better chance of selecting the best embryo,” he says. “But it could also be that freezing and thawing diminishes the quality of the egg.”

He noted that while freezing eggs is no longer considered “experimental,” it’s still not a foolproof procedure, and emphasized that it tends to be easier to freeze embryos than eggs. “With an egg, its only one cell; it either makes it or it doesn’t,” he says.

This study did not adjust for age or other donor characteristics, which means it’s important to interpret with caution. But it’s the first widespread study that compares live birth rates from frozen eggs to live birth rates from fresh ones. Until now, doctors have relied on anecdotal evidence to reassure their patients that frozen eggs behave exactly like fresh ones, an idea that has contributed to the growing popularity of elective egg-freezing as a method of fertility preservation.

Another important thing to note is that this study measured frozen eggs from egg donors, who tend to be much younger than women who electively freeze eggs for fertility preservation. Egg donors tend to be between 18-25 (the cutoff age for Egg Donor America, one egg donation center, is 29) while women who freeze their own eggs tend to be in their mid-late 30s. Since most doctors think egg quality can decline with age, women who freeze their own eggs might see even lower live birth rates than the donor eggs in this study.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Parental Happiness Predicts If You’ll Have Another Kid

Shadow of mother lifting baby
Chev Wilkinson / Getty Images The happier a parent is after their firstborn, the more likely the child will have a sibling.

A study notes that baby number one affects parental satisfaction and, in turn, affects whether baby number two is in the horizon

It’s often said that happiness often dips for parents after the birth of a first child. The diaper changes, the middle-of-the-night wailing, the exhaustion—all this and more make for a not-so-blissful experience. Couple a crying infant with job stress and hormones, and you’ve got one crabby new parent.

And that crabbiness might mean baby won’t get a brother or a sister: New research from the Journal of Demography shows that how happy a brand-new parent acts as a pretty solid predictor of whether a couple decides to get pregnant again.

Mikko Myrskyla at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, and his colleague, Rachel Marolis at the University of Western Ontario’s Department of Sociology, collected data from Germany’s Socio-Economic Panel Study, which included the former East and West Germanys (East Germany was added in 1991), foreigners, and immigrants between 1984 and 2010. From the survey, 2,016 people who had had first births were interviewed about their levels of life satisfaction—beyond the happiness of being a parent, Myrskala told TIME.

“We don’t ask parents about happiness with relationship to parenthood, because there is a strong implicit pressure to be happy,” Myrskala says. “If I go and ask a new parent these kinds of questions, they feel a pressure to put a positive picture of what a new parent is ‘supposed’ to feel.”

Having the first kid, the authors write, is a crash course in childrearing; having a second one, then, becomes a more informed decision. This can play out in a number of ways. Consider, for instance, the parents of a fuss-free newborn. The circumstance is likely to be seen as positive experience, making the new mom and dad more likely to have more kids. About 58% of parents who reported at least a three-point loss in happiness had a second child within 10 years of the first. But that shot up to 66% of parents who did not experience a dip in happiness.

There are some commanalities among parents who decide to go for baby number two and beyond. These individuals seem to have more life satisfaction around the time of the first child’s birth, and reported a smaller drop in happiness than parents who stuck with one kid. And there’s something about being older and wiser as a first-time parent: people who are over 30 and have a college education are more likely to be able to cope with the shock of an infant than younger, less educated couples, the study found.

While the study is focused on Germany—a country that has experienced economic and political upheaval along with a 2007 parental leave amendment that made paid leave “more Nordic”—Myrskala thinks the results are in keeping with other countries.

“What this suggests is that policymakers who are concerned about lower rates should pay attention to the wellbeing of new parents,” Myrskyla says, citing not only parental leave but also affordable kindergarten and childcare.

TIME families

What You Really Need to Know About Egg Freezing

Some call it an "insurance policy" for modern women. But does it really work? Watch TIME's investigation of the latest fertility craze

Egg freezing has been hailed as a game-changer for women, an “insurance policy” to revitalize waning fertility, a breakthrough as revolutionary as the birth control pill. But how well does it really work?

In this week’s issue of the magazine, we took a deep dive into the promises and pitfalls of egg-freezing. If you’re reading this, you probably already know all the facts about how egg quality and quantity deteriorate with age, which is why some women consider freezing their eggs until they’re ready to use them.

Here are eight key takeaways from six months of reporting on whether procedure lives up to the hype:

1) Egg-freezing is taking off among professional women. Doctors say they’ve seen more interest in the procedure since Apple and Facebook announced last year they’d cover egg-freezing in their employee health plans, and younger women are beginning to ask about how they can preserve their fertility. In 2009, only about 500 women froze their eggs—in 2013, almost 5,000 did, according to data obtained from the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART.) Fertility marketer EggBanxx estimates that 76,000 women will be freezing their eggs by 2018.

2) While there is no widespread published data on the live birth rate from elective egg-freezing, initial data provided exclusively for TIME by Dr. Kevin Doody, former chairman of the SART Registry, gives us the clearest picture so far. Of the 353 egg-thaw cycles in 2012, only 83 resulted in a live birth. After 414 thaws in 2013, 99 babies were born. Those are the most comprehensive live-birth rates for egg freezing, and they’re just under 24%. (It should be noted that some of these eggs may have been frozen with an older slow-freeze method, which has a much lower success rate.)

3) Elective egg-freezing gained popularity after the American Society for Reproductive Medicine removed the “experimental” label from the procedure in 2012, in part because a new quick-freeze vitrification method radically improved success rates. But in the same document, the ASRM also warned against using egg-freezing to electively delay motherhood, citing lack of data. “Marketing this technology for the purpose of deferring childbearing may give women false hope,” they wrote.

4) That marketing is happening anyway. Fertility companies and specialists are hosting egg-freezing parties and other informational gatherings to encourage women to consider freezing their eggs as an “insurance policy,” and in some cases offer Groupon-style discounts if they commit immediately. One of these fertility companies, EggBanxx, recently merged into a new company, Progyny, that’s privately held and funded in part by Merck Serono Ventures. Merck Serono Ventures is the strategic corporate-venture arm of a biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, which just happens to make three major fertility drugs.

(MORE: You can read the full story here: Buying Time: More women than ever are freezing their eggs to use later– but success rates are lower than you think)

5) Freezing your eggs is expensive. The egg retrieval process can cost $10,000-15,000, and that’s not including storage fees or the cost of fertilization and embryo transfer. And it can be physically grueling as well—patients give themselves daily hormone injections for two weeks before eggs are retrieved from the ovaries. The good news is that the procedure doesn’t take very long—most patients said it was over in about 15 minutes.

6) Nobody knows how many babies have been delivered from a mother’s own frozen eggs. When you ask doctors about success rates, they tend to compare the procedure to IVF (which is done with fresh eggs) or egg donation (which often uses frozen eggs from women in their early 20s). And while anecdotal evidence suggests egg freezing is comparable to IVF because frozen eggs behave like fresh ones, IVF itself is hardly foolproof—even in women under 35, the majority of cycles don’t result in a live birth. But because IVF is such a common procedure, women are often reassured when they hear the comparison.

7) Even young women have a high percentage of eggs with chromosomal abnormalities. And while genetic testing of eggs is technically possible, it’s too expensive to become part of the regular procedure in the U.S.—so genetic testing only happens once a egg has been fertilized and grown into a blastocyst (a pre-embryonic state.) That means women don’t know if their eggs are genetically healthy until they’re thawed and fertilized, which means they could be freezing—and pinning their hopes on—bad eggs.

TIME Research

The Teen Birth Rate Is Now At an All-Time Low

TIME.com stock photos Condoms Sex
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Here's what's driving the drop in teen parenting

The teen birth rate has hit a new record low, according to federal data released on Wednesday.

Researchers from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics looked at birth certificates for the year 2014 from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories and found that the teen birth rate is the lowest ever recorded. And, for the first time in seven years, the general fertility rate in the U.S. increased.

Among teens from ages 15 to 19, the birth rate dropped 9% in 2014 to 24.2 births per 1,000 women. Since 1991, the researchers report that the birth rate for this age group has dropped 61%.

MORE: The Best Form of Birth Control

Overall, the number of U.S. births in 2014 increased 1% from the year prior. The number of women in their twenties having babies dropped 2% to a record low, while the number of women in their thirties and forties giving birth rose.

The national teen pregnancy rate has also been on a record decline. Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has shown pregnancy rates among teenagers have been consistently dropping for the last two decades, and there was a 10% drop in a year from 2012 to 2013.

Some data suggests that teens are less sexually active than the past, and those that are having sex are using birth control more often. Some experts speculate that increased access to affordable birth control and better sex education have also played a role.

MORE: The Trouble With Sex Ed in the Internet Age

Teens may also be using better, more effective contraceptives, with an increasing (though still low) number of young people from ages 15 to 19 using long-acting reversible contraceptive methods like the IUD or implant. There’s also been a notable increase in the use of the birth control pill among the age group, as well as usage of more than one method.

Birth control methods like the IUD and implant are significantly more effective than other methods, including the pill and condom. The failure rate for the IUD is as low as 0.2% while the pill is 9% and the condom is 18%. New data released on Tuesday revealed that when women are counseled about all of their options, they are more likely to choose the most effective methods, and that can lead to notable declines in unintended pregnancies.

Some indirect factors could also be influencing the latest birth statistics, suggest researchers at the Guttmacher Institute. Women, for instance, are both getting married and having children later in life.

Though teen births are decreasing, the U.S. still has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world.

TIME medicine

Woman Gives Birth After a Transplant of Her Own Frozen Ovarian Tissue

Case hailed as a scientific breakthrough

Over a decade ago, a bone marrow transplant left a Belgian girl infertile. Now, a transplant of her own frozen ovarian tissue has helped her get pregnant and give birth to a healthy baby boy, Sky News reports.

The scientific breakthrough is likely to benefit other sick children who lose their fertility through cancer treatments.

“Freezing ovarian tissue is the only available option for preserving their fertility,” Dr Isabelle Demeestere, a fertility specialist at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, told media. The details of the transplant were published in Human Reproduction, a medical journal.

The patient, who suffered from sickle cell anemia, was 13 when her ovary was frozen and she had yet to start her period.

A decade later, four pieces of the frozen tissue were transplanted onto the patient’s remaining ovary at her request. Two years after the transplant, she was pregnant, Sky News reports

Doctors reportedly expect the woman’s ovary function to remain normal, allowing her to have more children in the future.

[Sky News]

TIME health

Sheryl Sandberg Explains Why Facebook Covers Egg-Freezing

The Davos World Economic Forum 2015
Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg/Getty Images Sheryl Sandberg, billionaire and chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., speaks during a session on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015.

"I talked about it with our head of HR, and said, 'God we should cover this'"

A Facebook employee with cancer inspired COO Sheryl Sandberg to create the company’s controversial egg-freezing policy, Sandberg said in an interview released Friday.

In a Bloomberg Television interview with Emily Chang, Sandberg explained the genesis of the policy that gives employees money to get their eggs frozen in order to delay childbirth.

“There’s a young woman working at Facebook who had got cancer, and I knew her and she came to me and said, ‘I’m going to go through the treatment, and that means I won’t be able to have children unless I can freeze my eggs, and I can’t afford it, but our medical care doesn’t cover it,'” Sandberg explained. “I talked about it with our head of HR, and said, ‘God we should cover this.’ And then we looked at each other and said, ‘Why would we only cover this for women with cancer, why wouldn’t we cover this more broadly?'”

Egg-freezing has been widely used to help women with cancer preserve their fertility after chemotherapy, but it’s increasingly being used by women who want to delay motherhood for non-medical reasons, like if they haven’t found the right partner or they want to focus on work. When Facebook and Apple announced in November that they would cover elective egg-freezing for their employees, some critics attacked the policies, saying the companies were essentially encouraging women to delay motherhood until it’s convenient for the company.

Virgin CEO Richard Branson doesn’t agree. “We at Virgin want to steal the idea and offer it to our women,” he told Bloomberg in the same interview. “Somebody said to me they got criticism…and I said, ‘How can anybody criticize them for doing that? It’s women’s choice.”

He has a personal reason for supporting egg-freezing policies. “My daughter just had two wonderful twins from eggs, and they wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the eggs,” he said.

[h/t Bloomberg]

TIME Research

A Diet High in Pesticides Is Linked to a Lower Sperm Count

healthiest foods, health food, diet, nutrition, time.com stock, swiss chard, greens, vegetables
Danny Kim for TIME

Strawberries and spinach are among the worst offenders

The troubling link between pesticide exposure and fertility isn’t new; scientists have already established that people who work with pesticides tend to have lower fertility than people who don’t. But for the majority of us who don’t work with chemicals, diet is the biggest source of exposure, says Jorge Chavarro, MD, assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health and senior author of a new study published in the journal Human Reproduction.

Chavarro and his colleagues wanted to see if pesticide residues left on fruits and vegetables might have a similar effect on sperm—and their findings suggest that they did. Men who ate fruits and vegetables with a lot of pesticides had lower sperm counts and more oddly shaped sperm than those who had lower levels of dietary pesticide exposure.

MORE: Not So Fertile Ground

Over an 18-month period, the researchers used data from the Environment and Reproductive Health (EARTH) study, including semen samples from 155 men who were being treated at a Boston fertility clinic and a food frequency questionnaire they completed. The researchers determined pesticide exposure by comparing the questionnaire answers with government data about produce pesticide levels in the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program.

The study didn’t tease out individual foods, but the researchers classified produce according to whether it had high or low-to-moderate levels of pesticides. Men who ate the most high-pesticide fruits and vegetables had a 49% lower total sperm count and 32% fewer sperm that were shaped normally, compared to men who ate the least amount of the high-pesticide produce.

Researchers gave each piece of produce a score based on its level of detectable pesticides, its level of pesticides that exceeded the tolerance level established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and whether the produce had three or more types of detectable pesticides. (The bigger the score, the more it hit all three measures.) Ranked from highest pesticide contamination to lowest, here were the top fruits and vegetables:

  • Green, yellow and red peppers (6)
  • Spinach (6)
  • Strawberries (6)
  • Celery (6)
  • Blueberries (5)
  • Potatoes (5)
  • Peaches and plums (5)
  • Apples or pears (5)
  • Winter squash (4)
  • Kale, mustard greens and chard greens (4)
  • Grapes and raisins (4)

The team didn’t tease out associations with individual pesticides. But they believe that a mixture of pesticides—not just one particular pesticide—is responsible for the link. The strongest variable in their analysis were the proportion of fruits and vegetables consumed that use three or more pesticides. “The more pesticides are applied on any particular crop, that seems to be having a bigger impact,” Chavarro says.

Chavarro says he still remains skeptical, and that one study isn’t enough to offer definitive proof. “As far as we are aware, this is the first time that something like this has been reported,” he says. “It will be very important to replicate these results in other studies.” But for people who are concerned about their dietary exposure to pesticides, there are ways to lower it, he says, like eating organic and choosing produce not listed on the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen list.

TIME health

Three-Parent IVF Deserves a Chance in the U.S.

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It.

All new fertility methods sound crazy at first

In a historic vote that rocked the world of fertility medicine Tuesday, British lawmakers approved the use of a controversial IVF practice that would take genetic material from three people to create a single embryo.

The promising technique, which involves replacing the defective cellular material of a woman’s eggs with that from a healthy donor, aims to prevent patients from passing down crippling genetic diseases to their offspring. It also might hold the key to other groundbreaking applications, such as extending women’s fertility by rehabilitating old eggs.

The decision is inspiring because members of Parliament chose science over a firestorm of often ill-informed debate questioning whether we’ve gone too far in experimenting with genetic engineering. Hopefully, they will motivate the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which held public hearings on the topic last year but declined to move forward with human trials citing lack of safety data, to follow suit. New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that more than 12,000 women in the U. S. of childbearing age risk passing down such mitochondrial diseases, which have been linked to everything from poor growth, blindness, neurological problems and heart and kidney problems.

The world is right to be cautious about this latest mind-boggling advance in reproductive medicine. It does sound like science fiction: If you’re a woman who suffers from a mutation in her mitochondrial DNA—the part of our cells that generate energy—scientists can take your egg, extract the nucleus—the part containing your most important genetic instructions, such as hair and eye color—and insert it into a new egg that has been provided by another woman. (The nucleus would have already been removed from the donor egg.) This newly renovated egg is then fertilized by your partner’s sperm and implanted into your uterus. You carry on with your pregnancy, just like billions of women before you. (Another version of the technique switches out the nucleus of a newly fertilized egg.)

Have we pushed the boundaries too far in innovative baby-making? Think back to when critics charged that the inventors of in-vitro fertilization recklessly “played God” by daring to combine a sperm and an egg in a lab to create Louise Brown in 1978. Now some 5 million of the world’s babies have been conceived via IVF. But it’s one thing to get used to combining reproductive parts in a lab; it’s a lot less comfortable to imagine tinkering with those parts beforehand. In an open letter to the U.K. Parliament, Paul Knoepfler, stem cell and developmental biology researcher at the University of California Davis School of Medicine, warned that supporters “could well find themselves on the wrong side of history … with horrible consequences.”

Yet it’s important to understand that mitochondrial replacement isn’t genetic engineering run amok, cautions Debra Mathews of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University. The mitochondrial energy-making material of an egg accounts for a mere 37 genes, compared to the nucleus, which contains about 23,000 genes. “No one is messing directly with genes,” she says. “Scientists are replacing damaged mitochondria with healthy mitochondria. It’s a specific technology for a specific application. We’re modifying eggs to avoid serious diseases.” So far, researchers haven’t attempted a pregnancy using the technique, but a study published in 2012 in Nature found that resulting embryos appeared to develop normally with the nucleus intact and did not contain any of the mutated mitochondria from patients’ previous eggs. And scientists at Oregon Health and Science University transferred the mitochondria between rhesus-monkey eggs and created four healthy monkey babies.

Yet determining when a technology is “safe” is especially challenging in fertility medicine because the only way to find out is to create another human. The FDA’s prudence is a welcome change from the early “wild west” days of reproductive medicine when many scientists “implanted and prayed” that their experiments wouldn’t lead to the “horrible consequences” Knoepfler is warning against. So far, we’ve been incredibly lucky.

We don’t want to risk holding up progress by being too cautious, especially when some 1,000 to 4,000 babies are estimated to be born every year with mitochondrial disease, according to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.

Yet what should the threshold be? The FDA shut down other such research being done more than a decade ago. Scientists at several fertility clinics were responsible for 30 pregnancies from eggs that had been injected with donor cytoplasm that contained mitochondria. The kids haven’t been tracked over the long term, and it’s unknown whether the procedure contributed to two cases of chromosomal abnormalities that resulted in one miscarriage and one abortion. And researchers at New York University’s Langone Medical Center tried a similar mitochondrial transfer technique using younger eggs for three women in their 40s suffering from age-related infertility. Although the embryos developed naturally, none got pregnant. A Chinese team later used the NYU method to achieve a triplet pregnancy, but the patient lost the entire pregnancy after she tried to abort one fetus to give the other two a better chance of survival.

Let’s follow the British example and find the right balance between prudence and progress. “We’re at a stage when we can use these technologies to help all kinds of patients, and we have enough reassuring evidence that it’s safe,” says NYU’s Jamie Grifo, and author of the The Whole Life Fertility Plan. “It shouldn’t be taking this long to move forward.”

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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