Infertile couples have a major opportunity to achieve a successful pregnancy without the need for IVF, thanks to new research into a 100-year-old medical technique.
The now lesser known technique -- which involves flushing the woman's fallopian tubes with an iodised poppy seed oil -- has been proven to have significant benefits for fertility, according to the largest study undertaken by a team of researchers. The results of the study will published inThe New England Journal of Medicine..
Known as theH2Oil study, the project compared the benefits of flushing the fallopian tubes with either an oil-based or water-based solution in 1119 women..
The procedure, known as hysterosalpingography (HSG), is a dye test of the fallopian tubes conducted under X-ray. The procedure was first carried out in 1917, and since the 1950s both water-based and oil-based solutions have been used.
"Over the past century, pregnancy rates among infertile women reportedly increased after their tubes had been flushed with either water or oil during this X-ray procedure. Until now, it has been unclear whether the type of solution used in the procedure was influencing the change in fertility," says the author, who was conceived after his mother underwent such a procedure.
Almost 40% of infertile women in the oil group and 29% of infertile women in the water group achieved successful pregnancies within six months of the technique being performed.
The oil-based product used in the study was Lipiodol® Ultra-Fluid, an iodised solution of fatty acids from poppy seeds. This product is currently available in 47 countries around the world.
"The rates of successful pregnancy were significantly higher in the oil-based group, and after only one treatment. This is an important outcome for women who would have had no other course of action other than to seek IVF treatment. It offers new hope to infertile couples," author says.
"It was long believed that testing a woman's fallopian tubes could have fertility benefits through 'flushing out' the kind of debris that hinders fertility. The reality is, we still don't really understand why there is a benefit, only that there is a benefit from this technique, in particular for women who don't present with any other treatable fertility symptoms," author says.
"Further research would need to be conducted into the mechanisms behind what we're seeing. For now, and considering the technique has been used for 100 years without any known side-effects, we believe it is a viable treatment for infertility prior to couples seeking IVF.
"Not only is there a known benefit, but this flushing procedure is also a fraction of the cost of one cycle of IVF. Considering that 40% of women in the oil-based group achieved a successful pregnancy, that's 40% of couples who could avoid having to go through the huge costs and emotions associated with IVF treatment," author says.