A new simple procedure which involves gently scratching the lining of the womb in the month before IVF - the only hope for many women to have a family - has been shown to be highly promising.
Pregnancy rates doubled from 29 per cent to 49 per cent in the trial, while the number of successful births also increased from 23 per cent to 42 per cent.
Previous trials have focused on women who have had IVF at least once before, but now the research, involving a team from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Sheffield, is going to be used to help women about to have fertility treatment for the first time.
And if the technique is successful, this could lead to it being offered routinely to all women having their first IVF cycle.
Another potential benefit is reducing the likelihood of a multiple pregnancy which is the largest risk associated with fertility treatment.
The £1.2m study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, is running at around 12 centres nationwide including Sheffield’s Jessop Fertility.
Mostafa Metwally, consultant gynaecologist and specialist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “The use of endometrial scratch has not yet been fully tried in women who are about to have IVF for the first time. If found to be beneficial then it could be used to improve the chance of achieving a pregnancy for a large group of women without the need for repeated IVF attempts, so we are delighted to be leading the way with this research. By the end of the study we hope to be able to tell whether or not endometrial scratch should be offered routinely to women having their first IVF treatment cycle.”
The technique involves placing a small tube about the size of a drinking straw through the neck of the womb and gently scratching the womb’s lining. The ‘scratching’ releases certain chemicals believed to help the fertilised egg implant in the womb’s lining – increasing the chances of a successful pregnancy.
The study will involve 1,044 participants and run over two and a half years.
Prof Adam Balen, chairman of the British Fertility Society, said: “The theory that endometrial scratching could promote embryo implantation has existed for a while, therefore it is welcome news that Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Sheffield will be leading this large randomised controlled study. If shown to improve the success rate of embryo implantation, this trial could lead to endometrial scratching being offered routinely to all women having their first IVF treatment cycle. However, in the meantime, without the presence of clear findings from high quality studies, we certainly cannot recommend that anyone trying to get pregnant should undergo this procedure.”