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No Funny Business: fertility optimization

  Driving down a fairly grim North Hollywood avenue, this clown jumped out of nowhere. Circus Clown Liquor. Made me stop and laugh out loud … as soon as I’d stopped screaming in terror.

It might not seem that clowns have much to do with fertility (maybe the opposite!), but in a recent study*, women undergoing IVF – in vitro fertilization – were exposed to a peculiar intervention after embryo transfer: a Clown. And the women who were exposed to the clown’s performance, apparently with correspondingly raised spirits, had a higher rate of successful pregnancies than those who experienced the procedure clown-free.

I love that people are studying this so … creatively.

Optimizing your natural fertility is certainly a matter we need to discuss and we need to begin by ensuring you’re optimizing your self first.

A lot of fetal development takes place in the first few weeks of a pregnancy. It is not a surprise that the earliest most women find out they are pregnant is 1-2 weeks after a missed period. By this time, the heart and spine and other organs have formed / are forming.

This is so important to keep in mind. If you are having unprotected sex, the safest thing for you and your potential pregnancy is to act like you are already pregnant!

A few ways to do this:

{} Prenatal vitamin If you are a woman of reproductive age, you should take a prenatal vitamin daily, whether or not you are trying to get pregnant. The folic acid added to prenatal vitamins has been shown to decrease the chance of spina bifida and other neural tube defects.

{} Alcohol Avoid it. Anecdotally, I know women who have the occasional glass of wine during pregnancy, and their babies seem just fine. I also know women who have binged while they were unknowingly pregnant, and their babies seem just fine too. But, we’ve all heard of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. There is a spectrum of problems associated with alcohol intake and pregnancy, including developmental problems and stillbirths. Dedicated research has not been able to define a safe amount of alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Women metabolize alcohol differently, and we think babies do too, which may contribute to the effect on certain babies and not others. I’ll break this all down in a later post.

My bottom line: we don’t know how much is safe, so why chance it? It’s not worth it. Pregnancy is temporary. You can celebrate with champagne when it’s over.

{} Ibuprofen Don’t take ibuprofen. It can increase the chance of a miscarriage in early pregnancy.

{} Preexisting medical conditions/medications Do your best to address and resolve any ongoing health issues. I say this and my friends joke “I need to get my toe fungus cleared up before I get pregnant?” The answer is, if you can, yes.

A little nail fungus is not dangerous for your pregnancy. A nail fungus that gets out of control, doesn’t respond to topical treatment, and needs systemic medication to calm down, could be dangerous. Many medications used without a second thought in a healthy, non-pregnant woman will be off limits to the same woman pregnant. So, to zap that annoying, persistent nail fungus, you might need a medication that’s not so safe in pregnancy. See where we are going with this? Just resolve those little issues the best you can before you get pregnant so you’re not put in this situation.

{} Preconception counseling & general health See a doctor for preconception counseling. Exercise. Eat healthy. Make your own health and wellness a priority, so you can be the most healthy carrier for your baby.

And there it is! There’s a lot of common sense there and only a very little that should cause anything like concern. And though you can’t try to relax and enjoy the whole process, you certainly can do everything possible to do those things that make you feel grateful and excited and strong and happy.

Well, everything that doesn’t include daily trips to Circus Liquor.

* Friedler et al. The effect of medical clowning on pregnancy rates after in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer. Fertility Sterility. 95 (6): 2127-30, 2011 May
(maybe not the most fool-proof I’ve ever seen when you actually analyze it)


May 7, 2012

Original post published: 

* Content reviewed annually for accuracy 

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