IVF vs. Flushing blocked fallopian tubes for improving fertility

A procedure that successfully opens a female’s fallopian tubes by flushing them with fluid to attain pregnancy is being used for decades, with rickety success rates. A recent study has established that the procedure considerably improves fertility, with a special kind of oil-based liquid in comparison to the water-based fluid.

The study was published in “The New England Journal of Medicine” and its results were made public while deliberating the 13-World Congress of Endometriosis on May 18, 2017 in Vancouver in Canada.

This hysterosalpingography study was conducted on 1,119 women from 27 medical centers in The Kingdom of Netherlands. All the females participating in the study were below the age of 38, who had been attempting to achieve pregnancy for about one-and-a-half year on an average.

These females were haphazardly assigned to get either water or an oil-based contrast dye and the results were startling. The 40 percent females, whose fallopian tubes were flushed with an oil-based dye, achieved a pregnancy successfully in a span of six months in comparison to only 29 percent females, who received water-based dye flushing. This showed a considerable statistical variation.

The study results are a vital gain for the couples confronted with infertility, especially for those having no clue for the infertility cause.  It offers a possible alternative to those couples who otherwise are keen on pursuing costly and invasive IVF procedure for treating the infertility.

IVF not the priority call

When a couple treads parenthood journey, nearly eight or nine out of ten achieve pregnancy without facing any difficulty. But nearly 15% of them come in the bracket of facing “infertility” – unable to attain pregnancy even after 12 months of regular and unprotected copulation.

Such couples heaved a sigh of relief when a new invention came through in 1978 when a British Scientist Bob G Edwards along with Patrick Steptoe, Gynecologist succeeded in developing birth of Louise Joy Brown with the help of in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure.

In IVF, a female’s egg is fertilized with a male sperm retrieved from his ejaculated semen in a laboratory.  The embryo thus developed is placed into the uterus to eventually develop as a baby. Since the inception of the technology, it is estimated that nearly 5 million babies, or, probably more, are born.  Bob G Edwards was awarded Nobel Prize for inventing this procedure in 2010.

Managing infertility does not suggest you to take IVF route instantly. An infertile couple requires proper medical examination before opting for the procedure.  The investigations should ensure that in the female involved timely ovulation is happening and a mature egg is being released by the ovaries every month regularly.  Her male partner also required examinations that his testicles are producing semen that has sperm and have:

Tubal patency

The egg fertilization happens within the Fallopian tube of a female. So, the fertility expert will examine if your Fallopian tubes are open or not. This means that there are no occlusions when a sperm is attempting to meet the egg. This is known as “tubal patency” is generally confirmed by using imaging technologies that permit the Fallopian Tubes to be viewed.

The technology usually used for viewing the Fallopian Tubes is known as Hysterosalpingogram popularly known as HSG. While performing this procedure, the doctor passes a tube via the cervix of the uterus, located in between the uterus and vagina, into the uterus.

A material that increases the fluid contrast and other body organs is introduced into the uterus through this tube until its arrival up to the Fallopian tubes. If the Fallopian tubes are patent, this material will move freely into the abdominal cavity out of the tubes. This can be seen in X-ray images.

The HSG procedure permits nearly 5% of infertile females to be identified having blocked tubes, which is a clear sign that the sperm and egg will not be able to meet. Previously, this meant unblocking the tubes surgically. These days, couples are recommended to undergo IVF procedure.

Though the HSG procedure is used to examine whether the tubes are blocked, several females have, in fact, achieved pregnancy in the 1st to six months’ period after going through the procedure. This is a clear indication that the flushing of the Fallopian tubes in the HSG procedure benefits tremendously in terms of fertility.

An oil-based fluid

An evaluation of studies investigating fertility success after the HSG procedure in 2015 recommended that by flushing the Fallopian tubes with a contrast dye that gets dissolved in oil is superior in civilizing fertility than the water-soluble substance.

Tubal flushing has many advantages viz-a-viz IVF, including that the gain continues over a period of time, whereas IVF is helpful in the current cycle. With tubal flushing one can achieve pregnancy naturally and its cost is just a fraction of the IVF procedure. IVF also impacts emotional happiness and, at times, creates medical obstacles.

According to a study, nearly 40% of females going through the HSG procedure with an oil-based fluid achieved a pregnancy successfully within a span of six months. The only acknowledged risk is leakage of fluid into the blood circulation during the procedure, but that is rare, and was not a part of the study.

How does the procedure work?

The fact is that the researchers could not comprehend why the HSG procedure is helpful. But there is no ambiguity that the technique is beneficial, particularly for females in whom there is no infertility symptom found that require treatment.

Researchers believe that more research needs to be conducted into the fundamental mechanism on how and why the procedure is helpful in comparison to the tubal flushing with saline or the laparoscopic inspection of the tubes.

The tubal flushing technique is in use for several decades and the researchers believe that it is feasible for treating infertility before taking the IVF procedural shelter.

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