Fast Food Break!
If you’ve been part of the IVF-community, you’ve probably seen at least a few dozen posts of women making the drive to McDonalds after their embryo transfer.
Is there something about embryo transfers that makes everyone crave a greasy burger with french fries? Do fertility clinics hand out coupons to use at Mickey D’s that are only valid within an hour of embryo transfer?
Well, no. Couples make the drive to the Golden Arches because:
- It’s a fun tradition
- There have been rumors that eating fries after IVF embryo transfer boosts pregnancy rates.
French fries or Fertility Fries?
So what is it about french fries that could aid in embryo implantation? Are the fries themselves the key to success? Or is it the oil in which they are fried? Perhaps the seasoning?
I couldn’t really think of any specific reason but saw plenty of discussions online claiming success by eating those damn fries.
Of course, as discussions like this often do, the mood quickly turned as some people claimed McDonald’s uses pesticides and other chemicals that cause infertility. And that you’d pretty much be in imminent danger even driving past a McDonald’s!
I found out that this French fry tradition wasn’t anything new either. Some posts were from 2006!
There’s only one problem with this intriguing and delicious way to boost your chances of success; the lack of scientific evidence. I searched everywhere, trying to find any evidence that could give us all just a tiny bit of hope that eating french fries might help. I tried looking for specific ingredients, the type of oil used to fry, the seasoning… nothing.
Plenty of unscientific claims were found though. Ranging from, “fat makes your uterus more sticky so the embryo has a place to nest in”, to “the salt used by McDonald’s draws the embryo closer to the womb”.
Unfortunately, that’s not how our bodies work.
How it All Started
Who came up with this and how did it get so popular?
It seems to have started by doctors recommending patients at risk for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) to eat salty foods after egg collection.
A quick summary of how this might work; OHSS develops in about 1% to 10% of women undergoing IVF. There is fluid accumulation around the ovaries and the abdominal cavity which causes a lot of pain. The fluid is loose and needs something to bind to so that it can be moved out of the body. Salt does just that, which is why eating salty food is often recommended after IVF stimulation.
So I’m guessing it went something like this.
Doctor [after egg retrieval]: So, remember, eat some salty foods when you get home okay?
Patient: Oh, like what?
Doctor: Well anything really. Salty fries, Chinese food, peanuts…
The patient takes the advice to heart and makes sure to eat fries every day from the day of egg retrieval until the day of embryo transfer.
She winds up getting pregnant. Her friends ask her what she did differently this time around and she tells them about the fries. Boom! Tradition started!
Sounds plausible if you ask me!
Fries for Frozen Embryo Transfer?
With the knowledge that salty foods can be helpful to fight OHSS in mind, I can understand why fries could benefit women who undergo a fresh transfer. But… what about all those frozen embryo transfers (FET)? The risk for OHSS has completely passed, yet many still swear by eating french fries in frozen cycles!
The initial thought behind it all may have been to reduce OHSS symptoms, but as IVF tends to get a lot of people pregnant, it shifted to being a general recipe for success.
Well, as you now know, eating french fries is -unfortunately- not a general recipe for success, but all things considered, it’s a pretty benign habit. It may not be the most healthy thing to eat, it’s not going to hurt your chances of becoming pregnant either.
Fact or Fiction?
So do you need to make the drive to Mickey D’s after transfer?
There’s no evidence to support that eating french fries after transfer benefits the implantation process in any way.
Unfortunately, correlation does not equal causation. In other words, just because some women who ate French fries got pregnant, doesn’t mean that French fries caused or even contributed to the pregnancy.
If you’re up for French fries after egg collection, go ahead, it might even help ease the symptoms of OHSS.
And If you’re hungry for French fries after embryo transfer, sure, order up! Why not.
And if you’re craving French fries when you’re ovulation and just trying to conceive, know that it won’t help you in the slightest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge a little 😁.
I think that for most people, it’s just a fun tradition. Snap a picture of your feet up in the stirrups followed by you at McDonald’s, and the IVF-community knows exactly what that means; you just had an embryo transfer!
As an added bonus: it’s also the perfect excuse to get your fast food fix.
Either way, I think we can all agree that people shouldn’t stress out in case McDonald’s is out of fries that day (does that ever happen?) or if they went to Burger King instead.
The real fertility diet
While were on the topic of how foods can get help you get pregnant, there are things that you can actually change about your diet to give you a helping hand. You can improve your egg quality (and your partner can improve their sperm quality!) by making some pretty simple changes to your diet. Yep. That’s what the science tells us!
There’s a lot of research backing up the Mediterranean diet. In other words, Spanish, Italian, Greek and other Mediterranean cuisines. Here’s how it differs from a typical western diet:
Western diet: potatoes, fried foods
Mediterranean diet: beans, seeds and legumes
Western diet: beef and pork
Mediterranean diet: lots of seafood
Western diet: refined grains and sweets
Mediterranean diet: whole grain breads
And guess what… adherence to a Mediterranean diet is linked to a 40% lower chance of having problems getting pregnant!
Not feeling up for Italian every day? That’s OK, because an overall healthy “fertility” diet can also boost your odds of getting pregnant.
There’s so much more to say about the Mediterranean diet and other fertility diets, so much in fact, that I wrote a complete Foods for Fertility blog series about… well you guessed it, food and fertility!
Short on time? Your questions answered
Does eating fries help me get pregnant?
Long story short: it does not! The salt in french fries (or any other salty food) can help transport fluid accumulation away from the ovaries.
Can french fries hurt my chances of getting pregnant?
Eating french fries is not a recipe for (IVF) success, but it is a pretty benign thing to do when it comes to fertility. So even though it’s not the most healthy thing to eat, it won’t going to hurt your chances of becoming pregnant either.
What is the idea behind eating french fries after IVF?
Some have recommended that women at risk for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) to eat salty foods to aid with the removal of fluids from the ovaries after IVF egg collection. At some point “eat something salty after IVF” morphed into “eat McDonalds french fries!”, but alas, there’s nothing special about the golden arches’ fries.