There are plenty of contemporary traditions and fertility rituals people practice when going through intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) or other fertility treatments in the hopes of ensuring a successful pregnancy and eventually a live birth.
Some of these rituals might sound strange, but when it comes to female infertility and male factor infertility, we’re often ready to try just about anything if it means improving reproductive health, getting pregnant and having a baby. You may find yourself doing things you never imagined before starting your fertility journey!
If you’ve been trying to conceive for a while, chances are you’ve noticed that pineapples are an unofficial symbol of infertility. From socks to jewelry, pineapple imagery is everywhere in the fertility space. It’s become a symbol of hope for those struggling with fertility problems and going through infertility treatments.
The tradition likely arose from the idea that eating pineapple can help with implantation (after ovulation or after an IVF cycle transfer). Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple core, has anti-inflammatory properties, and some people believe that it can help support the uterine lining for implantation of the fertilized egg. Unfortunately, there’s no clear scientific evidence to prove that it helps improve the chances of pregnancy.
That being said, if you like pineapple and consider it a lucky symbol, talk to your healthcare provider about whether or not you should snack on some after your treatment or transfer. And if you’d rather wear your pineapple, gear up with a pineapple charm bracelet, pineapple shirt, or pineapple socks (see more on this below).
2. Wearing lucky socks for IVF transfer
In traditional Chinese medicine, warm feet are associated with healthy blood flow in the uterus and improved fertility, while cold feet are associated with a “cold uterus” and decreased fertility. And while western medicine doesn’t have the studies to back up a connection between your feet and uterus, keeping your feet warm can’t hurt.
That’s why many people opt to wear warm socks at their fertility clinic during an embryo transfer. Plus, many women get chilly in a hospital gown during the transfer procedure, so cozy socks can keep you more comfortable. Some even continue to keep their feet extra warm during the whole “two-week wait” in the hopes that it will help the embryo implant.
It’s important to be comfortable, so adding a dash of luck with a special pair of socks might help—bonus points if they have pineapples on them!
3. French fries
Another popular fertility tradition is for people to eat french fries (or “fertility fries”) after an IVF transfer (typically from a fast-food restaurant).
When it comes to reproductive medicine and assisted reproductive technology (ART), this tradition likely started as a post-egg retrieval practice but has become popular after the transfer as well. Some fertility specialists (reproductive endocrinologists) recommend salty food after a retrieval for people at risk of ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS), which can occur after using gonadotropin medication like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) or luteinizing hormone to stimulate the follicles in the ovaries. While the salty food recommendation from your provider doesn’t necessarily mean fries, and doesn’t really apply to frozen embryo transfers, it can still be a fun tradition.
While french fries may not have much nutritional value, after any kind of fertility treatment it’s nice for a couple to do something special together and have some fun. Plus, some days just call for comfort food! And while it might not be the secret to improved pregnancy success rates, eating fries can be a lighthearted way to celebrate being one step closer to growing your family.
4. Symbols and reminders
Wearing symbolic jewelry or placing meaningful objects in your home can serve as tangible reminders of your goals. And while they might not magically get you pregnant, they can offer a feeling of luck and optimism that’s often much needed in the fertility process.
Turtles are a symbol of fertility and luck in many cultures, so consider wearing a turtle charm necklace or turtle socks for a boost. Another symbol of fertility is moonstone, a gem often associated with people’s menstrual cycles. You could consider carrying a stone in your pocket or wearing a moonstone bracelet to harness some extra fertility luck.
You can wear your lucky symbols as jewelry, place them on your nightstand, or create a little fertility corner in your home. Incorporate items from nature or display pieces of art that inspire you and make you feel uplifted and encouraged.
Looking at these lucky objects can help us feel more supported emotionally through the ups and downs of the fertility process, and keep us moving toward our goals.
5. Positive affirmations
While positive thoughts alone won’t get you pregnant, meaningful words or phrases can offer emotional benefits. Seeing or hearing meaningful words or phrases can make us feel supported and offer hope during tough times. Studies show that maintaining hope helps us take action instead of shutting down when things get hard.
This means that on those tough days, having an affirmation or mantra you can repeat might help you to keep going and make decisions that support your goals of getting pregnant—like going to bed early instead of endlessly scrolling on social media.
Relying on positive affirmations doesn’t mean you ignore what’s challenging—that’s usually difficult to do. But having these reminders can help you say, “things are hard right now, AND I’m still hopeful I’ll find a way.”
Try writing a handful of reminders or phrases that make you feel encouraged and put them on sticky notes around your house where you’ll see them often.
6. Clowns as laughter medicine
This one might surprise you, but there’s a little bit of preliminary research to back it up! A small, experimental study done in 2019 suggests that women who were exposed to clowns right after their transfer were more likely to get pregnant. A group of women who saw a 15-minute clown routine immediately following their embryo transfer saw a pregnancy rate of 36.4% compared to 20.2% in the control group.
One of the study’s authors, Shevach Friedler, said that the idea was to use humor and laughter to reduce stress. According to Dr. Friedler, “Patients suffering from infertility undergoing IVF are incredibly stressed…So I thought that this intervention could be beneficial for them at the crucial moments after embryo transfer.”
If clowns aren’t your thing, think about ways to bring some humor “supplements” into your day right after your IVF transfer. Watch your favorite funny movie, listen to a comedy routine or funny podcast, or tell jokes with your partner on the way home.
The bottom line is that laughter may be the best post-transfer medicine.
Which of these fertility traditions surprised you?
While there might not be science (or the health care industry) to back up all of these traditions, it doesn’t mean they don’t provide some positive side effects. After all, there are many studies about placebo effects and how our beliefs can affect outcomes. Having positive beliefs can positively influence our health outcomes, meaning that if fertility traditions help us feel more optimistic about our chances of conceiving, it definitely doesn’t hurt to do them.
At the very least, many of these traditions support our own well-being by helping us feel in control. Whether or not you know the cause of your infertility, the ups and downs of the fertility process and the feeling that nothing is in your control can be really challenging for many. Feeling like you’re doing something can give you a big emotional boost.
Plus, regardless of our medical history, these traditions can help us feel like we’ve done everything possible to conceive. It never hurts to try every tool (or “treatment option”) in the box! So put on your pineapple socks, grab a funny movie and some fries, and celebrate your treatment!