In-Vitro Fertilization as Funny Business? Conceivable!

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Photo by Eleanor Ryan; used under Creative Commons Attribution license.

Is laughter really the best medicine if you’re having fertility treatments? If the results of a small study in Israel are to be believed, the chances of conceiving from in-vitro fertilization (IVF) are greatly enhanced by having a clown put on a performance for the woman after the procedure.

Half the women in the study had 15-minute clown sessions and half didn’t, as a control. Dr. Shevach Friedler, the study’s leader, found that 36% of the clown-enhanced procedures were successful while only 20% of the women in the control group conceived. Dr. Friedler believes the difference is due to stress reduction from laughter, since (as you would probably expect) women who have just undergone IVF treatment are typically pretty stressed out. While this certainly makes sense, and many other studies have shown medical benefits from comedy (spawning a new field of study known as “medical clowning” — no kidding!), Dr. Friedler’s study only had 219 women participating, so further study is certainly warranted. Since there aren’t likely to be any negative effects, this should be a no-brainer for other IVF clinics to try.

Of course, this idea can be taken even further. Couples trying to conceive in a… non-medically-assisted manner might want to cue up a DVD of their favorite comedy show or HBO stand-up special or whatever’s likely to induce laughter, and switch it on immediately after their… conception-related activity. I realize that such a situation is generally a lot less stressful than an IVF clinic, but hey — it can’t hurt, right?

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