Many people know that pineapples are synonymous with hospitality, but a new report reveals their surprising second meaning: the tropical fruit have become a symbol of hope and camaraderie for couples trying to conceive via in virtro fertilization (IVF).
As The New York Times writes, pineapple emojis and hashtags like #pineappletribe are used as a secret language of support on social media, and featured on branded fertility items like tracking planners and medication containers. For example, online stores like "IVF Got This" sell cards and T-shirts.
Fertility physician Aimee Eyvazzadeh even told the paper that “probably 75 percent” of her patients wear pineapple-branded clothing to their medical appointments.
There’s some science behind this connection. According to a 2012 study published in the journal Biotechnology Research International, an enzyme extract called bromelain, found in the stem of the fruit, can reduce inflammation, which has been associated with reproductive disorders. (Although reproductive endocrinologist Tomer Singer told the New York Times, “There’s no evidence in the literature that says consuming pineapple prior to an embryo transfer will improve implantation.”).
The pineapple is only one symbol helping women cope with infertility and/or pregnancy loss, particularly during October’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. On social media, rainbows represent the birth of a baby following miscarriage or stillbirth, with parents using the nickname for their first child after loss. "It is called a rainbow baby because it is like a rainbow after a storm: something beautiful after something scary and dark,” Jennifer Kulp-Makarov, M.D., told Parents. Photos of babies produced by IVF have been memorialized online with artful IVF syringes and many honor their struggle with individual designs.
According to Lindsey Wimmer RN, executive director of the Star Legacy Foundation, an organization dedicated to stillbirth education, research, and awareness, these emblems help facilitate dialogue on a topic that’s often stigmatized. “It can be challenging to tell people, ‘We’re dealing with pregnancy issues,” she tells. “Is it easier to upload a Facebook photo of a pineapple? Absolutely.”
Utilizing the rainbow symbol in a birth announcement, for example, allows couples to share happy news while contextualizing how their new addition fits a family story paved with physical and emotional pain. It honors and acknowledges the loss of an infant who may always feel like a family member, and reassures people experiencing loss of beauty after a storm.
“Looking at social medial, it can feel like the whole world is getting pregnant easily and delivering healthy babies,” Wimmer tell Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s a false narrative that we buy into and perpetuate. Rarely do people post, “‘We’re pregnant and it took us three years and six miscarriages and we’re scared to death.’”
Having reproductive issues feels alienating. According to 2017 research, depression and anxiety affect 40 percent of women with infertility problems (twice that of fertile women) and women have claimed physiological symptoms similar to those undergoing cancer. According to a 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, 47 percent of people who had miscarried experienced guilt, 41 percent felt they “had done something wrong,” and 28 percent felt ashamed.
“Even when we know there are medical reasons for loss, women feel guilty and assume others blame them too,” Wimmer tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Because we don’t have good talking points for these topics, they’re brushed off or discussed in religious tones. That’s hard too, when these events can cause people to question their faith in the first place.”
Andrea Syrtash, who underwent 18 fertility treatments, including 9 IVF procedures before turning to gestational surrogacy to birth her 9-month-old daughter, says symbols are signals that build a community. “It can say, ‘I need others in my corner — where are you?’” the founder of the online magazine Pregnantish, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
An unsuccessful IVF procedure is wholly painful because it exhausts emotional and financial reserves, says Syrtash. “You’ve put your body through such extremes and the loss can add insult to injury,” she says. “There’s a feeling of, ‘Haven’t I already done enough?”
Posting a symbol online can reach a network of people who deeply understand one’s pain, says Syrtash, without hearing advice that is well-meaning but often misinformed. “People can minimize your pain by saying, ‘At least you could get pregnant’ or ‘Maybe you should...’ but a simple, ‘I’m sorry’ is really effective.”
Wimmer hopes that symbols like the pineapple and rainbow can reframe pregnancy complications as pink ribbons did for breast cancer. “I had a great aunt who died in the 1960s from what was called a ‘female cancer,’” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “To this day, I still don’t know how she died because to speak of female reproductive parts was considered inappropriate then. But today we have NFL players wearing pink ribbons.”
Using designs to illustrate painful experiences can be a lifeline, says Wimmer. “I’m hopeful they can break down barriers.”
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