The simple method, which involves gently scratching the lining of the womb in the month before IVF treatment, potentially improving its success, is being tested by experts on first-time couples undergoing the procedure.
Gynaecologists and scientists from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Sheffield University, are trialling the technique in the hope of boosting the success rate of IVF.
Initial findings from the research are said to be highly promising, with pregnancy rates in women undergoing IVF almost doubling from 29 per cent to 49 per cent. The number of live births also increased from 23 per cent to 42 per cent.
The technique involves placing a small tube, about the size of a drinking straw, through the neck of the womb and gently scratching the organ’s lining.
The ‘scratching’ is said to release certain chemicals believed to help the fertilised egg implant in the womb’s lining – increasing the chances of a successful pregnancy.
Consultant gynaecologist Mostafa Metwally, a sub-specialist in reproductive medicine and surgery at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said the procedure could reduce the need for repeated IVF cycles.
He 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 Sheffield team, in conjunction with 10 centres across the UK, are the first to test technique on first-time IVF couples. The study will involve 1,044 participants aged under 37, and will run over two-and-a-half years.