A poppy seed oil, that was first used over a century ago, is helping Australian women fall pregnant, according to a leading Sydney fertility specialist.
It has also been proven to have “significant benefits” for fertility following a large study led by researchers in the Netherlands and Australia.
Lipiodol was traditionally used in medical tests to check fallopian tubes were open and it has now become a way of managing unexplained infertility.
The study has found that births were higher among women who underwent the old-fashioned Lipiodol flushing compared with those that used a water based solution in their fallopian tubes.
Dr Sonya Jessup, from Demeter Fertility, has performed Lipiodol flushing for 100 patients in conjunction with traditional IVF treatments and she says it’s getting results.
“A large number of my patients get pregnant just with that. I’ve had patients I’ve given a Lipiodol flushing to and they’re pregnant that month having not conceived for three years prior,” said Dr Jessup.
“I also do it in patients who are doing IVF and maybe have had embryos back or have endometriosis and haven’t got pregnant. I’m doing it for them at the beginning of the cycle and again, I’m seeing a lot of people getting pregnant.”
Dr Jessup says the oil is expensive (at about $400) but she says it is “completely safe” with minimal risk and pain that is on par with menstrual cramping.
“I’ve never seen anyone have a problem with the procedure but it can cause some abdominal discomfort,” she said.
The Sydney-based fertility doctor, who is said to be the only Sydney specialist offering the procedure, has seen “immediate results” for five or six patients who have conceived within a month or two after having unexplained fertility for years.
Her clinic now offers the treatment for all patients to maximise their chances of falling pregnant.
The lead author of the clinical trial, obstetric clinician Ben Mol from the University of Adelaide, says researchers don’t yet understand the link between the birth rates and the procedure.
"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," he said in a statement.
"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," Professor Mol added.
He says the study offers new hope for infertile couples.
"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," he said.
"Not only is there a known benefit, but this flushing procedure is also a fraction of the cost of one cycle of IVF," he added.
"Considering that 40 per cent of women in the oil-based group achieved a successful pregnancy, that's 40 per cent of couples who could avoid having to go through the huge costs and emotions associated with IVF treatment."
Listen: Deb Knight’s IVF Journey (post continues below).
Dr Jessup says Lipiodol flushing, when used in conjunction with IVF, may enhance a woman’s ability to fall pregnant and give the embryo a better chance to survive.