Century Old Fertility Technique Lessens Need For IVF


A century old medical technique may help infertile couples conceive without using in vitro fertilization (IVF), according to researchers at the University of Adelaide (UA) in Australia.

The recent study involved flushing women’s fallopian tubes with either an oil-based, or a water-based solution. This flushing technique was originally part of an x-ray procedure, called a hysterosalpingography (HSG), first done in 1917. Over time, doctors noticed that undergoing HSG increased pregnancy rates for infertile women.

The Adelaide study involved 1,119 infertile females. Nearly 40 percent of those in the oil-flush group achieved successful pregnancies. The solution used was an iodized poppy seed oil called Lipiodol Ultra-Fluid. Of the women in the water-flush group, 29 percent became pregnant.

The researchers do not know why flushing fallopian tubes provides fertility benefit, but they know it does, and that the technique has been used for 100 years without triggering side-effects. It’s also an extremely cost-effective procedure.

“Not only is there a known benefit, but this flushing procedure is also a fraction of the cost of one cycle of IVF,” said Professor Ben Mol, from UA’s Robinson Research Institute. “Considering that 40 percent of women in the oil-based group achieved a successful pregnancy, that's 40 percent of couples who could avoid having to go through the huge costs and emotions associated with IVF treatment.”

Interestingly, Professor Mol was born in the 1960s after his infertile mother underwent an HSG, a fact that was revealed to him after he began researching the technique. “So it’s…highly likely that my brother and I are both the result of this technique helping my mother to achieve fertility,” notes the professor.

Since flushing fallopian tubes with Lipiodol is not currently a common practice, Professor Mol suggests couples interested in the procedure talk to their doctor about it.

“Professional bodies responsible for guidelines, funders of health care, and fertility clinics all have a role to play in assisting infertile couples to make this intervention available to couples before IVF is started,” says Mol.

Source: Adelaide University
Photo credit: Richard foster


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