The link between tonsil and appendix removal and higher fertility is due to life history strategy

The fast life history strategy is associated with both lower levels of somatic maintenance, which results in worse health, and earlier and more frequent childbearing. As such, it is the underlying factor in the link between appendix and tonsil removal, and more frequent pregnancies and higher birth rate. Inflammation, as a signal and consequence of worse overall health, would also be expected to speed up reproduction in itself, as part of the adaptive response to shorter expected (healthy) lifespan.

There is no evidence in the recent study for a causal effect of appendectomy or tonsillectomy on subsequent fertility. The control group would need to be women with similar rates of inflammation but who didn’t have the procedures, whereas in the recent study it was just women matched for age and practice. It is therefore not possible to conclude, as one study author did, that “More importantly, looking at both the appendix and tonsils together, this study confirms beyond doubt that removal of inflamed organs or organs likely to suffer from repeated inflammation, in women, improves their chances of pregnancy.”

Technically, it doesn’t necessarily mean that appendectomy has no negative effect on fertility, as the cohort who have had the procedure may have otherwise had even higher levels of fertility than the control group.

The Dundee team involved in the research take a behavioural  view of the evidence, with “women enjoying more “liberal sexual activity”, being both more likely to get pregnant and have pelvic inflammatory disease.” More “liberal sexual activity” is another trait of the fast life history strategy, so can be seen both as a proximate cause, and as another component of the coherent suite of biological and behavioural traits which serve to accelerate our life cycle, in order to calibrate it with our life expectancy given our environmental conditions.


By Breck MacGregor

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