I had a thought yesterday that might already be part of conventional wisdom, but which I don’t remember having heard elsewhere.
I was thinking about how research has been showing that our behaviors interact with our physiology: that repeated behaviors can influence brain structure and body chemistry, and the changed physiology can in turn reinforce behaviors. For example, I remember reading an interview with the author of a book about fatherhood, promoting fidelity in marriage and an active parenting role for fathers, and the author said that new research is showing that fathers who take an active role in parenting their children have different body chemistry and brain physiology than before they were married; they become more nurturing and less aggressive. He argued that this is scientific evidence for how marriage and parenting have a civilizing effect on men. I’ve also heard of research that shows that people who’ve habitually practiced self control have structures in their brains that are absent in the brains of violent criminals.
So, then I was thinking about the often-observed phenomenon in which formerly infertile couples who adopt a baby become pregnant shortly after the adoption. The usual explanation is that stress had been interfering with fertility, and adopting a child alleviated the stress. What I was just wondering, though, is whether the act itself of caring for a baby or young child influences body chemistry and brain physiology in a way that can increase fertility. (As I said, maybe this theory has already been put forward, but if so, I don’t recall encountering it yet.)
Can looking at photos like this one cause pregnancy?
Update: I think I’d better clarify that, notwithstanding the title of this post and the photo caption, which were both meant tongue-in-cheek, I wasn’t actually meaning to speculate that wanting a baby could make you more fertile–obviously, couples who adopt do so because they do want a baby very much. I do still wonder whether actually caring for a baby or child on a daily basis might somehow increase fertility, though.