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Laughter Can Be Good Medicine For IVF Procedures

January 14, 2011

An Israeli study suggests that laughter may increase the success rate of pregnancy though in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

An Israeli research team led by Dr. Shevach Friedler found that the odds of success were greater among women who were entertained by a professional “medical clown” just after the embryos were transferred to their wombs.

36 percent of the 219 women involved in the study became pregnant, versus 20 percent of women who’d had a comedy-free recovery after embryo implantation according to the findings in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

Dr. Friedler, who led the work, said he got the idea for the study after reading about the potential physiological effects of laughter as a “natural anti-stress mechanism. Patients suffering from infertility undergoing IVF are exceptionally stressed.”

Friedler, who is based at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Zrifin, told Reuters Health in an e-mail, “So I thought that this intervention could be beneficial for them at the crucial moments after embryo transfer.”

Friedler’s team had a medical clown visit their fertility clinic periodically over one year. Of the 219 women studied, half underwent embryo implantation on a day the clown was at the clinic. During recovery from the procedure, each woman had a 15-minute visit from the clown, who performed a specific routine created by Friedler.

The researchers found that compared with women who came to the clinic on a “non-clown” day, those who’d had a laugh were more than twice as likely to become pregnant, when age, type of infertility and number of transferred embryos were taken into account.

Friedler did not have any information on if other clinics would be sending in the clowns but added that if studies at other centers back up his findings, other fertility clinics may take up the tactic. “After all,” he noted, “this is one of the least hazardous interventions in our field.”

The use of clown characters in medical settings has long been used at medical centers in Israel, the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia, usually in children’s hospitals.  It’s also gaining some academic backing. The University of Haifa in Israel, for example, recently launched a degree program in “medical clowning.”

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