Had Your Appendix or Tonsils Out? It Could Mean You're More Fertile

The science behind the weird side effect. 

Appendix, Tonsils, Fertility Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

If you've had your appendix or your tonsils removed, here's a side effect of the procedures you probably haven't considered: Either one could increase your chances of conceiving, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Dundee, United Kingdom, published these findings in Fertility and Sterility. According to Sami Shimi, a clinical lecturer and the study's co-author, the news is reassuring—especially since there have been concerns that such procedures could make it harder for a woman to get pregnant.

According to Shimi, people once believed appendix removal could affect fertility since it can leave behind scar tissue, but in 2012, Shimi and his team conducted a study that found the opposite. "Our first study produced such a surprising result—that women who had had their appendix removed actually appeared more likely to become pregnant—that we wanted to look at a wider group to establish whether this was really related to the removal of the appendix, which if left can be a cause of inflammation," Shimi said, according to Medical News Today.

Shimi and his team conducted their more recent study to further explore this association. The team looked at the medical records of 54,675 women who have had appendectomies; 112,607 women who have had tonsillectomies; and 10,340 women who have had both procedures. They compared their pregnancy rates to the general population, finding that while most women have a pregnancy rate of about 44 percent, those who have had tonsillectomies and appendectomies have a 53 and 54 percent rate, respectively. Women who had had both surgeries have the highest rate, at 59 percent.

"The study has challenged the myth that was previously accepted on the deleterious effects of appendectomies," Shimi told CNN. "Young women should not have any fear or anxiety about an appendectomy (or tonsillectomy) reducing their fertility."

The researchers are trying to pin down a cause for this relationship. Like Shimi said, one theory is that removing the appendix and/or the tonsils reduces the risk of inflammation in the body. Another theory is that the association could be caused by increased sexual or romantic activity: The researchers suggested that increased intimacy could lead to tonsillitis or stomach infections, causing a woman to get her tonsils removed or have her appendix looked at by a doctor. In this scenario, it's how often a woman is having sex—both before and after the procedures—that makes her more likely to get pregnant, not the procedures themselves. 

While it's entirely possible that these findings are coincidental, it might help ease fears held by women who have undergone either of these surgeries. "Young women should not seek appendectomies or tonsillectomies to increase their chances of pregnancy," Shimi said. "But if they need one, the operation will not reduce their future chances of pregnancy."