A surprising link has been found between women who have had their appendix and/or tonsils removed and their rate of fertility, although doctors are strongly warning against any women considering either procedure unnecessarily. The researchers think that the factors behind the results, which are published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, could be more behavioral than biological.
While correlation does not necessarily equal causation, the researchers think certain factors could be affecting the rate of fertility, as this isn’t the first time that such a link has been discovered between the appendix and fertility. Two previous studies in the UK have found that women who have undergone an appendectomy have an increased fertility rate – of 20 and 54 percent, respectively – and shorter time to pregnancy, as well as another Swedish study finding a similar association.
One reasoning might be whether a patient is susceptible to repeat infections of the appendix. By removing the organ completely, it may prevent any infection or swelling that could then cause damage to the fallopian tubes, and in turn impact a woman’s fertility. In order to test this, the researchers decided to look at another lymphoid organ – this time the tonsils. If the cause for the increase in fertility has to do with a reduction in swelling around the fallopian tubes, then it would stand to reason that the removal of the tonsils would have no effect, or so they thought.
What they found was even more curious. They looked at over 500,000 women who had either just undergone an appendectomy, just had a tonsillectomy, both, or neither, and matched them for exact age and practice over 15 years. They found that out of each group, 54 percent of the 54,675 who had had their appendix removed went on to become pregnant, as did 53 percent of the 112,607 tonsillectomy patients, and close to 60 percent of those 10,340 who had both taken out. This was compared to just 43 percent of the 355,244 women who had neither procedure. Not only that, but they also showed shorter time to pregnancy.