Is laughing the best medicine for IVF treatment?

IVF Superstitions: Can Laughing Improve IVF Outcomes?

We’ve talked about certain seemingly odd IVF superstitions such as eating McDonald’s french fries or pineapples after embryo transfer. But what about something much more obvious: laughing?

Time and again I keep hearing that when dealing with infertility, keeping a positive attitude is really important. But, of course, that is waaaay easier said than done. Every negative pregnancy test, bad test result, or failed IVF cycle, is, frankly, beyond depressing.

But do you really have to stay positive or is it OK to be a Debbie Downer once in a while? Is there any merit to the “superstition” of positive thinking, happiness and laughter around the time of embryo transfer?

Maybe there is…


Can Laughing Improve IVF outcomes?

Maybe I shouldn’t even call it a superstition. Let’s call it a hypothesis for now! And a hypothesis can be tested scientifically!

Does laughing improve IVF outcomes?

I’ve found a grand total of ONE scientific paper that deals with this question. But, in spirit of keeping positive, one is better than none!

In 2010, a paper was published in the Fertility and Sterility journal. It’s called “The effect of medical clowning on pregnancy rates after in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer” by Friedler et al.

You read that right. Clowning. Hold on to those french fries Ronald (McDonald)! You can leave this job to the professional medical clown.

Basically, the line of reasoning is as follows:

  1. Stress reduction improves fertility
  2. Humor and laughing can reduce stress hormones
  3. Therefore: humor can improve IVF outcomes

To test this hypothesis, the authors had a medical clown visit about 100 women immediately after embryo transfer. The clown performed a 15-minute magic routine that, hopefully, was really funny. Another very similar group of women had an embryo transfer but did not get a visit from the clown.

So. Do you think more women got pregnant in the clown group or non-clown group? Or do you think it didn’t matter at all?


The Medical Clown Working His Magic

It DID help! The women who laughed their ass off right after embryo transfer had a 36% chance of becoming pregnant. On the other hand, of the women who weren’t visited by the clown, only 20% became pregnant.

That’s quite a big difference! This might be a superstition that’s true after all! Hmm… What do you even call that? A “stition”?


Back to Reality

As I already said, there’s only been 1 scientific paper looking at a type of laughing-therapy during IVF. That’s not a lot, and I’m wondering why nobody else has published anything on the subject matter. Could it be that people are having a tough time getting replicating the results?

Another big “unknown” is that while stress and anxiety reduction may improve fertility in the general population, it’s much more difficult to determine whether it has any bearing on IVF patients. Most people going through IVF are more likely to have a medical problem than a psychological one (see here and here).

But at the end of the day, there might actually be something to this whole being less stressed and happier thing! So while you probably won’t have a clown visiting your room after transfer, it can’t hurt to watch your favorite comedy afterward, or do something else that makes you laugh and feel good.

 Even if it doesn’t help, you’ll at least feel a bit better!


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