Social Isolation Can Increase Chances of Pregnancy, Says Dr P M Bhargava
According to a study conducted by Bangalore Assisted Conception Centre (BACC), social isolation of women for 3-6 days following sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilization increases chances of pregnancy by 50%. The study saw participation from 1734 women over 5 years. The study suggests that if a women is isolated from all other men, and not her husband, for at least 3 full days after intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) or embryo transfer following in vitro fertilization, her chances of pregnancy are elevated by 50%.
The study further states that, “Three days are required for implantation of the embryo developed in the lab following IVF or ICSI, on the wall of the uterus – a prerequisite for further development of the embryo – it would appear that the above isolation of the woman increases the chances of implantation."
This study was conducted by Dr. Kamini Rao, Dr. M.S. Srinivas, and Dr. Anu Kottur, along with Dr. Partha Majumder and Dr P M Bhargava. We asked Dr. Bhargava, who conceived the idea of this study, some questions about the study's premise and findings.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Mansi Kohli. What made you conceive this study?
Dr. Bhargava. The success rate of clinical pregnancy in women after in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) in the first three attempts, with two to three embryos transferred, has been reported to range from 25 to 33%. Further, this success rate seems to be identical with that obtained in women in natural cycles, when the couple does not suffer from any known form of infertility and the intercourse takes place at the right time. While seeking an explanation of the above phenomenon, we recalled the observation of Hilda Bruce, followed by others, during 1959-1968, that if, 24 hours after mating, a mouse belonging to a different strain than the stud mouse was placed in the cage of the female mouse, partitioned in such a way that no physical contact of the non-stud male with the female was possible, pregnancy was blocked. It, therefore, seemed possible that the above-mentioned low percentage of successful pregnancies in the human species, may be due to the exposure of the woman, after IVF, ICSI or sexual intercourse, without physical contact, to men other than the male partner. We, therefore, isolated randomly selected 729 women from all other men except the husband for three full days after embryo transfer following IVF/ICSI, and followed them to the end of pregnancy; 1005 randomly selected women who were treated similarly but not isolated, served as the control group. Isolation was done either in a room in BACC, or at the home of the woman. The establishment of clinical pregnancy as well as live births was more than 50% higher in the isolated group than in the control.
Mansi Kohli. What exactly is the bottom line of your study and how do you think this revolutionary insight will help in elevating chances of a successful pregnancy?
Dr. Bhargava. The bottom line of the study which would help in increasing the chances of a successful pregnancy is the following: To increase by 50 per cent the chances of a woman becoming pregnant (either in the natural course or following the use of an assisted reproductive technology technique such as IVF or ICSI), she should isolate herself from all other men excepting her husband for 3 to 6 days (6 days in the case of normal intercourse, or 3 days after embryo transfer following ICSI/IVF). This, we believe, is a very important conclusion of our study.
Mansi Kohli. How exactly can social isolation increase the chances of pregnancy? Is this more of a psychological factor?
Dr. Bhargava. The mechanism by which the chances of pregnancy are increased by social isolation of the woman, is not fully understood, but it is certainly not psychosomatic as, in the entire experiment spread over many years, there were appropriate controls. However, by analogy with mice, it would seem very likely that the individual-specific smell of men other than the husband, acts as a block to implantation of the fertilized egg on the wall of the uterus. Such implantation is absolutely necessary for pregnancy to be established. One may recall here that the dog can distinguish between any two individuals (excepting genetically identical twins) on the basis of individual-specific smell signals. Various types of smell signals emitted by animals (including humans) are known to affect a large range of biological functions.
Mansi Kohli. Can you throw some light on the different kinds of studies done on this subject?
Dr. Bhargava. This is the first study of its kind with humans. Similar studies were done by Hilda Bruce and others between 1959 and 1968 on mice, but ours is a breakthrough study in the field of pregnancy.
About Dr PM Bhargava: Dr PM Bhargava is the founder and former Director of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and Vice Chairman of National Knowledge Commission. He is widely regarded as the architect of modern biology and biotechnology in India and is one of India’s most respected scientists.
*Image courtesy: © Dr. P.M. Bhargava