Pineapples have become a powerful symbol for women struggling with infertility.
The fruit appears in the profile photos and Facebook feeds of women in online infertility communities, and dominates hashtags related to in vitro fertilization on Instagram.
Women arrive for egg retrievals wearing pineapple leggings, T-shirts and dresses. They jot down notes in pineapple-covered notebooks and binders. Some use pineapple cookie jars and boxes to store I.V.F. medications, and ease the pain of daily injections with pineapple-shaped ice packs.
Many who are trying to conceive wear pineapple socks and jewelry to work, and fill their homes with pineapple picture frames and other tchotchkes. Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, a fertility specialist in San Francisco, said that “probably 75 percent” of her patients arrive for their I.V.F. procedures wearing something with a pineapple on it.
Pineapples have long been a topic of hopeful discussion in fertility circles. Patients tell each other that eating pineapple on an empty stomach the day of your embryo transfer can help you get pregnant. Pineapple contains a mix of enzymes called bromelain, which, according to the N.I.H., may debride scar tissue and decrease inflammation.
But evidence of the correlation between the fruit and fertility remains more anecdotal than scientific.
“There’s no evidence in the literature that says consuming pineapple prior to an embryo transfer will improve implantation,” said Dr. Tomer Singer, a reproductive endocrinologist at Shady Grove Fertility.
And while Dr. Eyvazzadeh said that bromelain could improve the implantation process, she suggested taking it as a supplement, in the form of a pill. “I ask people around the time of their transfer not to eat pineapple core,” she said. “The core can be really gritty, and the last thing you should do is introduce something that could upset your stomach on the day of your transfer.”
Regardless of its medicinal properties, women have clung to the sunny fruit as an emblem of their fertility journey. “The pineapple is a call to arms,” said Penelope Major, 38, who has dealt with infertility and now sells pineapple products through an Etsy shop called HeartMyMugs. She sees the merchandise as a conversation starter around a subject that can produce feelings of shame and unworthiness.
“If you’ve gone through infertility, you go through this stage where you just don’t feel good enough,” Ms. Major said. “You feel like there’s no one to talk to.”
Alexis Pearson, 30, who runs an Etsy shop called ThisWildNest, sells pineapple scrunchies. For each unit sold, she donates another to a fertility clinic. “The whole ‘stand tall, wear a crown, and be sweet on the inside,’” she said, explaining the pineapple’s significance, “it’s trying to give someone strength when they’re going through something that’s kind of crappy.”
Gina Rosales, 35, is pregnant with her second child through I.V.F. Even post-birth, she said, the pineapple can be a powerful tribute to a woman’s pregnancy journey. After her daughter was born, she bought a dainty pineapple charm bracelet on Etsy.
She also incorporated touches of pineapple into her daughter’s nursery. “Her laundry hamper has a gold pineapple on it,” Ms. Rosales said, “She has a little pineapple night light. Nothing overboard, but just little things paying homage to how she got here.”
The pineapple has also been picked up by people who want to show support for friends and family on their I.V.F. journeys. Tracey Bambrough and Sara Marshall-Page, two I.V.F. mothers who founded ivfbabble.com, an I.V.F. community and fertility magazine, began selling pineapple pins in December 2016.
“We’re trying to break the silence of infertility and normalize it,” Ms. Marshall-Page said. “It shouldn’t be spoken about in whispers.” The women estimate that they have sold more than 25,000 pins.
Amie Baaske, a 34-year-old who is on her third round of I.V.F., began selling pineapple merchandise on an Etsy shop called ChiefAndLily as a way to help cover the costs of infertility treatment. A baby outfit for sale on her site has text that reads, “She ate a lot of,” atop an image of three pineapples. Beneath the fruit are the words “Now I’m here.”
Ms. Baaske said that the pineapple may resonate because it is fairly neutral and positive. “Needles,” she said, “aren’t really a symbol you’d put out there. Baby aspirin you wouldn’t think to make a symbol of hope.”
Of course, before they were adopted by the infertility community, pineapples carried other significance. They are most widely known as a symbol of hospitality and welcoming. But on social media, pineapples are inextricably tied to infertility. On Instagram, the hashtag #PineappleTribe aims to connect women going through I.V.F.
“Women are celebrating their fertility journeys and connecting with others who are on the same journey with them,” said Kati Magnauck, 33, a mother of one, who runs the apparel brand IVF Got This. “Because it’s become this symbol, whenever you see a pineapple you get excited. It represents hope.”