If you’re anything like me, you’ve looked up ways to improve the chance of IVF success. You take to the internet and start Googling away.
It won’t take long before you come across seemingly millions of people all offering their words of wisdom. Some suggest you wear your lucky socks during embryo transfer, while others point out that they’d better be green socks otherwise it won’t help!
These things may sound pretty crazy to some, but remember, IVF is scary. Not being in control is scary!
No matter how prepared you are, there’s still an at best 50/50 shot you wind up pregnant. If only there was something we could do to help those little embryos along. To make sure we’ve given it our very best shot.
The Mythical Golden Arches
On my own quest of looking to boost my chances of success, I noticed there were a lot of women making a stop at McDonald’s right after embryo transfer.
Is there something about embryo transfers that made everyone crave a greasy burger with french fries? Did the clinics hand out coupons to use at Micky D’s that are only valid within an hour of embryo transfer? Hell, why didn’t my clinic offer these coupons?!
Well, no. Couples make the drive to the Golden Arches because they believe that eating their fries helps with embryo implantation.
So what is it about french fries that could aid in 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 McDonald’s 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: 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 orders up some fries at the local Mc’D’s daily until after transfer.
She winds up getting pregnant. Her friends ask her what she did differently this time around and she tells them about the fries. Tradition started!
It’s not much different than the ol’ “My granddad smoked all his life and is still kicking it at age 103, so smoking is not gonna hurt me”.
You take something that happened to you, or someone you know, ignore stories that don’t line up with your beliefs and make up your mind about the whole thing. Never mind that millions of people get terribly sick from smoking, and never mind the women who eat french fries but don’t end up pregnant. Just focus on those who turned out the way you wanted!
Fries for FET?
So I can understand why fries can benefit women who undergo a fresh transfer. But what about all those frozen embryo transfers (FET)? The risk for OHSS has passed, so why are people still stuffing their face with fries after transfer?
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.
I’m sure you’ve seen discussion board threads that go like this, “Anyone ever had [fill in the blanks] and ended up pregnant? Positive stories only please”.
*Sigh*. You’re literally asking people to confirm a belief without wanting to hear any evidence to the contrary.
Threads like these can range from french fries to things much worse.
“Anyone ever used cocaine while in the two-week wait and ended up pregnant? Positive stories only please”.
Okay so maybe I’m exaggerating a tiny bit. Also, eating french fries is pretty benign. It may not be the most healthy thing to eat, but that’s about it.
Conclusion: Fact or Fiction
So do you need to make the drive to Micky D’s after transfer?
There’s no evidence to support that eating french fries after transfer benefits the implantation process in any way.
It’s nothing more than a so-called post hoc causal fallacy. Meaning that you attribute something that happened in the past (eating fries) to something that happened later (pregnancy). Just because eating fries happened before you had a successful pregnancy, doesn’t make one cause the other.
If you’re hungry for french fries after transfer, sure, go ahead! Why not.
I think -and hope- 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.
I, for one, will probably not make a stop at the fast food place after transfer. Unless, of course, if my clinic handed out those coupons!
Other IVF Superstitions
So, what do you do to boost your chances of success, and do you believe it works?
If you know of any other interesting superstitions, IVF tips and tricks, drop me a comment below and I’ll look into it for an upcoming IVF Superstitions blog post in the future.