OK, that’s a slight exaggeration. But researchers who studied 219 women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) discovered that women were more likely to become pregnant if they were paid a visit by a professional “medical clown” after the procedure. The numbers speak for themselves: 36 percent of the clowned women became pregnant, whereas only 20 percent of the un-clowned women conceived.
Here’s some new ammunition for the mommy wars: the largest study ever done on the subject of breastfeeding and intelligence has found a correlation between “prolonged and exclusive” breastfeeding and smarter babies.
The study, authored by Michael Kramer from the Montreal Children’s Hospital, started by identifying about 17,000 Belarusian mothers with newborns. Half of the mothers were given a UNICEF/World Health Organization course—which advised long and continuous breastfeeding—while the other half were left alone to breastfeed at whim. The research team then tracked down about 14,000 of the children six and a half years later to give them IQ tests and examine their school evaluations in reading, writing and math.
A new study by the Universities of Exeter and Oxford, published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences found the first clear link between a mother’s diet and the sex of her baby. The research team took 740 first-time pregnant mothers in the U.K., none of whom knew their child’s sex, and had each mother record her diet before and directly after getting pregnant. Of the women who consumed the “highest energy intake”—which included the most calories and the widest range of nutrients including potassium, calcium, and vitamins C, E and B12—56 percent conceived sons, compared to 45 percent of the lowest intake group. One surprising note: A “strong correlation” was found between eating breakfast cereals and producing boys.
Earlier this week, Yale senior Aliza Shvarts made headlines with her performance art project, which consisted of artificially inseminating herself as often as possible while simultaneously ingesting abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. She reportedly preserved some of the blood from the process, which she claims to be storing in a freezer.
After the blogosphere erupted in outraged shrieks over the project, the university countered with a claim that the whole thing was a “creative fiction,” and that Shvarts was never actually pregnant. She maintains, however, that the project was real, though she couldn’t be certain whether the bleeding events were from abortions or just regular menstruation.
So can we turn to cold, hard science to determine which party is telling the truth? Possibly.
The AP reports that the lower house of the French parliament has passed a bill that would criminalize the “public inciting of extreme thinness.” This controversial (and totally unprecedented) law is aimed straight at the fashion industry—designers, magazines, and advertisers in particular—which has long genuflected before the image of über-skinny models as a beauty ideal. Read More
Amanda Gardner at HealthDay reports on a new study finding that female veterinarians face double the normal risk of miscarriage, due to their regular exposure to substances like radiation, anesthetic gases, and pesticides. While regular hospitals typically enforce strict use of lead screens, goggles, and other protective equipment to protect doctors, vets face less stringent regulations, if any, and so they wind up exposed to greater amounts of hazardous materials more often.
Given these lax safety measures, the study’s results come as no surprise to some doctors, including Richard Jones, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, who stated that the study “basically confirms and reminds us of what we already knew about exposures.” Still, given that current veterinary schools are made up of more than 80 percent women, it looks like a good time to start tightly regulating safety practices in the profession. It’s true that we place more value on the life of a human than we do an animal, but that equation shouldn’t include their doctors as well.