Fertility Diet Advice: The Good, the Bad, and the Crazy
When you’re trying to conceive or getting ready for a fertility cycle, there is no shortage of advice as to what will help or harm you along the way. We’re always hearing about how something very specific helped someone’s cousin’s mom’s niece conceive. The trouble is, the longer you’ve been trying, the more willing you are to experiment. I know I was. And there are a lot of us out there — the Pew Research Center estimates over one-third of adults in the United States alone have undergone fertility treatment or know someone who has.
Why do people get Mcdonald's fries after IVF?
When I was trying to conceive — both unassisted and assisted — I received TONS of suggestions: Eat pineapple to make the uterine lining “sticky.” Drink pomegranate juice to increase blood flow. Eat a large McDonald’s fry after an egg retrieval — or was it a transfer? No one on social media could seem to agree on the timing of that one. And those are just the superstitions I’m going to cover here.
While some of this advice might be loosely based on science, some of it can be ridiculous or straight-up risky. Let’s explore some common fertility diet myths, as well as a few claims for which even “myth” seems too generous a word.
Claim: Eating McDonald’s french fries after egg retrieval or transfer will help with implantation (or something).
Source: Various fertility social media, online groups, and fertility influencers and blogs
True or false: This is not untrue, though the advice is, in fact, meant for post-egg retrieval. During stimulation, some women can develop Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS). One way to help decrease the effects of OHSS can be to eat sodium-rich foods post-retrieval to pull extra fluid from the ovaries. You can do this with any kind of (relatively) healthy, salty food, like mixed nuts or veggie chips. But if you want fries, get fries! You don’t need an excuse to eat McDonald’s, especially after egg retrieval.
Why is pineapple a symbol of infertility?
Claim: Eat pineapple core to make your uterine lining “sticky.”
Source: Again, mostly various fertility social media, online groups, and fertility influencers and blogs
True or false: This one is not scientific. Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that digests protein. Did you ever notice when you eat a lot of pineapple your mouth kind of hurts? It’s because the bromelain is softly and slowly digesting — eating— the inside of your mouth. Yum! Don’t worry, it’s not dangerous to most people, although people with certain conditions, like blood disorders (it acts as a mild blood thinner), or those on antibiotics or other specific medications should be careful with pineapple.
If you’re clear from any contraindications, pineapple is nutritious and part of a healthy diet, whether or not you are trying to conceive.
How can I improve my lining before embryo transfer?
Claim: Drinking pomegranate juice will help thicken your uterine lining.
Source: Again, mostly various fertility social media, online groups, and fertility influencers and blogs
True or false: This is (likely) not harmful, but also not scientific. Pomegranates were a symbol of fertility in Persia, and they also contain a lot of antioxidants and nutrients like folate and vitamin K, which can help increase blood flow and offer anti-inflammatory qualities.
Some research in men has shown that eating pomegranate before ejaculation increases the number of motile—moving — sperm, but for women, there is no evidence that it influences fertility. Fruit juices in general contain high amounts of sugar and should be limited to small quantities.
Like pineapple, too much pomegranate can be dangerous to people with blood disorders or who are taking certain medications.
Is there really a link between soy and fertility?
Claim: Soy is going to destroy your estrogen levels and thyroid.
Source: This one is long-steeped in a variety of food lobby-supported B.S.
True or false: This one is false. Soy is plant-based, so the estrogen it contains are phytoestrogens — weak mimics of actual estrogen. No research shows that eating soy is going to increase your estrogen levels or mess up your thyroid. So enjoy your sesame tofu or soy latte. You’re fine. You would have to be literally mainlining soy into your body at such a level that fertility factors would be the least of your worries.
Claim: Eating exactly one Brazil nut post-transfer will help with implantation.
Source: Who knows at this point?
True or false: Maybe…? Brazil nuts contain so much selenium that just one is enough to meet your daily needs (so, also, don’t go nuts eating them). Selenium functions like an antioxidant and can help protect embryos from oxidation or DNA damage. There isn’t a lot of evidence at this point, but it also doesn’t seem harmful.
Claim: Quail eggs are helpful when trying to have a baby.
Source: Kourtney Kardashian quoted, “Quail eggs supposedly are useful when trying to have a baby. But I’m not sure if that’s, like, documented online. I haven’t looked it up.”
True or False: The properties of quail eggs — protein, vitamins, antioxidants — are beneficial for women trying to conceive (and… anyone…). But quail eggs themselves? Not necessary, no matter how cute and tiny they may be to Kourtney. One, they are rarely pasteurized — a no-go for women trying to conceive or those with weakened immune systems. Two, they were pretty expensive.
Maybe just eat a healthy, balanced diet… with a few chicken eggs once in a while.
Does drinking semen help with fertility?
Claim: Drinking semen helps fertility and/or abnormal thyroid levels (which can affect fertility).
Source: Kourtney Kardashian’s doctor suggested “drinking his (Travis Barker’s) semen to help deal with abnormal thyroid levels. ‘I can't remember what he said, if it was low or high,’ Kourtney said. ‘But he told us, well, he told me, that the thing that would help it was drinking [Travis'] c*m, like, four times a week.’ Barker added, apparently with a laugh, "I love this doctor.’ ”
True or False: This is way false. Yeesh. Although some men might think their sperm is magic, it’s just made of protein, carbs, and some vitamins, and does what everything else does when swallowed — passes through the digestive tract. It’s not going to affect thyroid function — or fertility — in any significant way, says women’s health expert Dr. Wider.
Along with Dr. Wider, New York-based, board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist and infertility specialist Dr. Lucky Sekhon and LA-based, board-certified fertility specialist Dr. Anu Kathiresan, all found the Kardashian fertility methods perplexing, to say the least. All found no reason anyone — let alone a fertility doctor — would recommend drinking semen as a method of influencing fertility.
Claim: A "Panchakarma cleanse,” which is Ayurvedic alternative medicine and, according to Kourtney Kardashian, "like 3,000 years old," will "get all of the toxins that are deep within our tissue out of our bodies to have better quality eggs." It claims to essentially reset the body.
Source: Kardashian and Barker are doing the cleanse following an unsuccessful egg retrieval. Kardashian said, "I did this cleanse 10 years ago. I kept telling Travis about this and this is the one thing that we haven't tried that he's heard me talk about."
To prepare for the cleanse, you must abstain from sex, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and exercise. At first glance, that seems like a big ask — but it’s only for five days, although Barker apparently found it difficult. After that, you go to a spa for several hours a day to be pampered. "Ayurvedic expert" Martha Soffer explained, “when you do any movement like you do exercise, or you have sex, you make your metabolism move.”
After the pre-cleanse, a seven-day cleanse begins. “The diet includes a combination of ghee and castor oil, which Soffer says, “The ghee actually, takes all the toxins, binds them, takes them to your GI tract, and when we do the castor oil, it's gonna bring them out and then you just feel amazing."
True or False: While Ayurveda is an ancient alternative medical practice, combining diet, herbal remedies, meditation and exercise, breathing, and other practices that are intended to balance the body, mind, and spirit, Dr. Wider emphasizes that no research shows it will boost fertility.
So, what will help boost my fertility?
Let’s face it: when conceiving becomes difficult, so many of us find ourselves going to great lengths looking for the perfect ‘fix’ to help us get pregnant — something that can help give us back some semblance of control on an unpredictable fertility journey.
However, in a world full of crazy fertility diet myths, the unsexy truth is that a well-balanced lifestyle centered around whole foods rich in unsaturated fats, whole grains, vegetables, and fish has been associated with improved fertility in both women and men.
Taking a quality prenatal supplement can also be a great first step to optimizing your levels of critical micronutrients that can be hard to get from diet alone. In fact, doctors recommend women start taking prenatal vitamins up to three months before trying to get pregnant; and recent research shows that men should take prenatal vitamins during the preconception period, too, whether or not they are currently experiencing fertility issues.
With so many options to choose from (and so much misinformation on the internet), it can be difficult to decide which prenatal vitamins are right for you and your partner – but not all prenatal supplements are created equal. Beli's prenatal for women and Beli’s prenatal for men are specifically designed to support fertility and improve egg and sperm quality. Plus, they’re one of just a handful of vitamins on the market meeting current recommended levels of folate, vitamin D, magnesium, iodine, and choline. No B.S., no woo-woo magic, just science-based prenatals with the ingredients you need – and you can save 15% on Beli supplements for women and men with the code, RESCRIPTED15!
Another thing that’s not a myth? Getting your zzz’s is important for fertility. As it turns out, when it comes to achieving a healthy pregnancy, getting quality sleep plays a big role.
The Bottom Line
Moderation in a lot of things is fine, but be sure to speak with a medical professional before putting anything new or different into your body when trying to conceive. And know that you’re already on the right track if you’re caring about this stuff now, prior to getting pregnant.
Above all, you do you, in the healthiest way for you. For me, I ate the fries.
is a writer and versatile creative. She is passionate about reproductive health and justice and lives in Longmont, Colorado, with her husband and their son.