The Scientific Truth Behind Popular Fertility Superstitions
Superstitions are all around us. From wearing lucky socks to a job interview to special rituals before sports games, it is not uncommon to see superstitions accompany important life events. The process of trying to conceive is no exception! Some fertility and pregnancy superstitions, such as conceiving on a full moon, have been passed down through generations for hundreds of years.
We asked our Anova patients which superstitions they have about fertility and trying to conceive, and many shared similar ones. Here are some of their responses and how these well-known superstitions may have originated.
Eating a pineapple core after embryo transfer.
Pineapples have become an unofficial symbol for individuals experiencing difficulty with fertility. The idea behind this superstition is that eating a pineapple core can help with embryo implantation during a transfer. Pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain, which is most concentrated in the pineapple’s core. While this enzyme’s primary role is to break down protein in food for digestion, it is also thought to have anti-inflammatory properties1,2. There is no clear medical evidence that bromelain affects fertility or implantation. However, limiting stress after an embryo transfer is important and having a healthy snack like pineapple after the procedure can be a great way to decrease stress.
Drinking pomegranate juice before ovulation
Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants and has been thought to promote circulation in the uterus to increase fertility. While there is no clear medical evidence that pomegranate juice can influence the uterus or fertility, eating a nutrient-rich, balanced diet (containing antioxidants) is beneficial for fertility3. Additionally, this juice contains high levels of folic acid, a vitamin critical in the formation of the neural tube during fetal development4. So, pomegranate juice, in moderation, could be a useful way to get some of your essential nutrients both before and during pregnancy.
Eating McDonald’s fries after embryo transfer
Typically, a diet high in sodium and protein is recommended after oocyte retrieval for those at high risk of developing Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). Due to their high sodium content, McDonald’s fries were popular choices from patients. Over time, McDonald’s fries appeared to develop into a post-procedure tradition, even for patients not at risk of OHSS. While we know that there aren’t any medical benefits behind McDonald’s fries, taking part in traditions such as these instills a sense of support and community between individuals experiencing fertility difficulties.
Bringing something for your future baby to each appointment (i.e. a pair of socks)
This superstition has a foundation in positive thinking. Some fertility journeys are longer than others, and so bringing something for your future baby can be a great way to visualize the end goal along the way. Additionally, having a small item for your future child at each appointment can be a great story to share with them later in their life, making them feel as though they were with you along the way. This small item can also be memorabilia of your fertility journey later in life.
While many superstitions don’t directly have clear medical benefits, they can have a positive effect by providing comfort, a sense of community, and positive thinking. All of these factors can help decrease stress levels, which we know can play a role in implantation success.
Superstitions such as the ones mentioned above are typically harmless in moderation, so we fully support patients taking part in these traditions to help feel their best throughout their fertility journey.
Dr. Gilman of Anova Fertility explains, “There is no clear medical evidence that these [superstitions] increase pregnancy rates, but we are fully supportive of people doing what makes them feel happy and positive throughout this process – so if keeping your toes warm, eating pineapple and eating French fries (all in moderation!) brings you joy through this sometimes-stressful process, then feel free! And of course, be sure to speak to your primary physician if you have any specific questions”.
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Celia de Lencastre Novaes, L., Faustino Jozala, A., Moreni Lopes, A., de Carvalho Santos-Ebinuma, V., Gava Mazzola, P., Pessoa Junior, A. (2016). Stability, purification and applications of bromelain: a review. Biotechnol Prog, 32(1), 5-13.
Bakare, A.O., Owoyele, B.V. (2021). Bromelain reduced pro-inflammatory mediators as a common pathway that mediates antinociceptive and anti-anxiety effects in sciatic nerve ligated Wistar rats. Sci Rep, 11(1), 289.
Gaskins, A.J., Chavarro, J.E. (2018). Diet and fertility: a review. Am J Obstet Gynecol, 218(4), 379-389.
Van Gool, J.D., Hirche, H., Lax, H., De Schaepdrijver, L. (2018). Folic acid and primary prevention of neural tube defects: a review. Reprod Toxicol, 80, 73-84.
Chloe Graham (she/her)
Doctoral Student (University of Guelph, Biomedical Sciences)
About the author
Chloe is a Doctoral Student in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Guelph, who also works as a patient coordinator at Anova Fertility.
At Anova, she educates patients through creating online resources, manages patient flow and assists with administrative functions. Before joining our team, Chloe advocated for women’s health and reproductive rights as an executive member of Oxfam at Guelph, local branch of the international anti-poverty organization.
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