Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) has allowed us to step in and create new life when an individual can’t get pregnant naturally. In the Untied States, the current success rate of in vitro fertilization ranges between 36-63 percent, depending on the woman’s age. However, a recent study of Israeli women found that they could increase this rate by almost 16 percent by exposing women to a big dose of therapeutic laughter.
“In the trial, the professional medical clown — who was dressed as a chef and performed the same light routine each time — visited patients during the half-hour after embryo transfer, when women typically stay lying down and allow the embryos to settle in. The idea was to help reduce women’s stress, which laughter has been shown to do, and, hopefully, reap the physiological benefits.”
As great as I think this effort is, I remain a little bit skeptical of the process. I am an advocate of this technology through and through– don’t get me wrong. However, I cannot help to think there is some confirmation bias at play here.
Seeking out evidence that confirms what we would like to be true is something we naturally do. For instance, let’s say a study shows that hypnosis has been found to help people quit smoking, a major problem in the US.* If in a small pool of 100 people it helped 26 of them quit smoking, then bystanders would like to say that yes, hypnosis is effective. However, when these numbers are contextualized and the failure rate is seen to be 74%, you start to see how your mind may have skewed the data by what you may thought to have been true, or would like to be true.
Going back to the medical clowns—though I haven’t found the detailed paper of this study, I do seem to think releasing these findings may be a ploy by the media to increase support for IVF by bringing a sense of comfort to the procedure. That aside, the individuals struggling with infertility whom this procedure does help will have one more thing to smile about.
* These numbers were hypothetical and are not based off of true data.