This is what getting your tonsils—or appendix—out does to your fertility

Remember how you envied the girl down the street because after she got her tonsils out, she got to stay home from school and eat all the ice cream she wanted? There was another bizarre side effect that no one knew about until now: New research reveals that getting your tonsils out—or your appendix—increases your odds of getting pregnant down the road. Really. (Here are the symptoms of appendicitis you need to watch out for.)

Some previous studies have hinted that an appendectomy could lower a woman’s fertility; experts worried that a tonsillectomy might have the same effect. So Scottish researchers at the University of Dundee collected 25 years-worth of medical information on more than 500,000 women, and compared a history of one or both of the surgeries with the women’s pregnancies. In their study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, the researchers report that women who had had their tonsils out had a pregnancy rate of 53 percent; the rate for women who had an appendectomy was 54 percent. Yet the rate for women who had neither operation was only 44 percent. Even stranger, women who had had both procedures—tonsillectomy plus appendectomy, had a pregnancy rate of 60 percent.

Related: Stay away from these foods if you're trying to conceive 

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10 foods to avoid if you're trying to get pregnant
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10 foods to avoid if you're trying to get pregnant

1. High-mercury fish

Mercury can damage the nervous system, which means that consuming mercury-rich seafood like swordfish and bigeye tuna while pregnant could directly harm the fetus, says registered dietician Kendra Tolbert. (The FDA recently updated their guidelines about safe and unsafe choices, see it here.) Eating high-mercury fish before you're pregnant could build up stores of mercury in your body, which could also affect the development of the baby's nervous system. "The fetal nervous system is being formed before most woman even know they are pregnant," explains registered dietician Suzanne Fisher. Mercury may also decrease fertility.

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2. Soda

A few studies have also linked soda—both diet and regular—to lower fertility. "We think it’s a combination of the inflammation and metabolic changes caused by too much blood-sugar-spiking sweeteners and gut-bacteria-changing artificial sweeteners," says Tolbert. Plus, many soft drinks come in containers that have BPA and other chemicals you might want to avoid.

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3. Trans fats

Trans fats, which are found in foods like certain chips or microwave popcorns, baked goods made with shortening, and fried foods, can cause inflammation and insulin resistance, which lowers fertility, says Tolbert. And in excess, they can damage your blood vessels, disrupting the flow of nutrients to the reproductive system. Men should also go easy on trans fats while trying to conceive because they decrease sperm count and quality.

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4. High glycemic-index foods

If you want to increase your fertility, avoid foods that make your blood sugar spike, especially if you're not pairing them with foods that slow down that rise. "Blood sugar spikes can cause inflammation, alter our hormones, and impede ovulation," says Tolbert. Try to choose slow burning carbs, like whole-wheat bread and pasta and brown rice over refined ones when possible, and combine them with protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

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5. Low-fat dairy

Low-fat milk, yogurt, and other dairy products may contain androgens, male hormones that get left in when fat is removed, says Tolbert. These foods and drinks may spur your body to produce androgens, which can interfere with your menstrual cycle.

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6. Excess alcohol

The CDC recommends that women who could get pregnant avoid alcohol entirely (not exactly realistic), but if you're going to drink, Tolbert suggests capping it at 7 drinks per week. Alcohol, like mercury, can contribute to infertility, and it depletes your body of the vitamin B, which improves your chances of pregnancy and supports a fetus's growth.

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7. Unpasteurized soft cheeses

Cheeses like Brie, Roquefort, Camembert and Gorgonzola have a higher risk of containing listeria, which can increase your risk for miscarriage, says Fisher.

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8. Deli meat

Processed meat like lunch meat and hot dogs, as well as smoked fish, are also vulnerable to listeria contamination. If you want to eat deli meat, Fisher recommends heating it up until it's steaming to kill bacteria.

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9. Raw animal products

Raw meat, seafood, and eggs might contain salmonella, coliform bacteria, or toxoplasmosis, which can infect a fetus if it passes through the placenta, says Fisher. Make sure to cook all animal products thoroughly, and skip sushi, carpaccios and the like.

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10. Certain bottled and canned drinks

Only drink out of cans and plastic bottles you and your partner know to be BPA free, since BPA can reduce fertility in both men and women. If you use a water bottle, Fisher suggests getting a stainless steel one.

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Why women would gain a boost in fertility from these surgeries is puzzling, say the researchers. One theory is that by removing the tonsils and appendix—both of which are prone to inflammation and infections—helped protect the ovaries, uterus, and other important baby-making structures. Whatever the reason, the researchers stress that their results do not suggest that women should undergo a tonsillectomy or appendectomy in order to increase their chances of becoming pregnant. However, they do believe the results should alleviate young women’s concerns that an appendectomy may affect future fertility.

All of that said, tonsils can be a breeding ground for the bacteria that causes not only sore throats, but also bad breath, so if you’ve been plagued by sore throats and halitosis, perhaps you might want to consider initiating a conversation about your tonsils with your doctor. As for your appendix, if it gets infected, it could be life-threatening. So please pay attention if you have any of these serious symptoms of appendicitis.

Related: 

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These surprising things can affect your pregnancy
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These surprising things can affect your pregnancy

1. Your pets

A recent study in Microbiome found that moms with furry pets like dogs and cats had babies with more healthy gut bacteria, even if the pets were no longer living with them after giving birth.

"Man’s best friend could be changed to a baby’s best friend," agrees Sherry Ross, MD, author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period. "There is a positive effect for the baby when a pregnant woman exposes herself to her dog or cat 'hairs' in preventing allergies and making healthier gut bacteria. This happens when pregnant moms transfer strong immunities onto the baby, creating these health benefits."

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2. Your headache meds

This is a controversial area: ibuprofen and aspirin have long been considered not great, but now research reports that Tylenol may be linked to ADHD, Butalbital may contribute to congenital heart defects, and Ondansetron could also carry several risks, according to a study in Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. Ross recommends trying non-drug remedies to headaches or pain, like naps, heating pads, meditation, or acupuncture. If that doesn't work, Tylenol is OK—and still better than aspirin or ibuprofen.

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3. Your partner

While there's a lot of focus on how moms might improve their babies' health, a dad's age, alcohol consumption, and diet can affect a child's chances of experiencing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, obesity, and other physical and mental health issues, according to a study in the American Journal of Stem Cells.

"Dads should exercise regularly, drink less alcohol, have a BMI under 30 percent, eat a diet low in carbohydrates and high in protein, and take a multivitamin to optimize their health when planning to [have a baby]," says Ross.

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4. The time of year when you got pregnant

Moms who get pregnant in May are 10 percent more likely to go into premature labor, according to a study in PNAS. The authors think this may result from moms getting the flu in winter, soon before the baby's born, which can trigger an early birth. While this possibility hasn't been ruled out, Ross says things like smoking, alcohol, drug use, insufficient weight gain during pregnancy, and a history of preterm births are more significant contributors to premature births.

Another study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that kids born in November were more athletic, possibly because their moms were exposed to more Vitamin D right before having them. A lot of people are deficient in Vitamin D, says Ross, and since it affects your fertility, it is a good idea to get yours checked if you're planning to get pregnant. But if you don't have access to sun, you can still get Vitamin D through supplements or food.

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5. Your exposure to secondhand smoke

Pregnant women who spend time around people who are smoking are more likely to have babies with concentration and aggression issues, according to a study in Neurotoxicology. Children of moms exposed to secondhand smoke while pregnant also have a higher risk of low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), says Ross. She recommends avoiding areas full of smoke while you're pregnant and asking any house guests who smoke to go outside or even change their clothes, since the chemicals can linger on them.

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