IVF is expensive, stressful and comes with no guarantees, but many women who opt for the procedure could be spared years of uncertainty thanks to a new scientific discovery.
Doctors from the University Medical Center Utrecht and Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam have discovered a specific genetic signature in the womb of some women, which appears to rule out the chance of falling pregnant.
Until now, it hasn’t been clear why certain women never fall pregnant even when a healthy embryo is implanted via IVF. But testing for the genetic signature could prevent years of heartache, as well as the considerable expense of several rounds of fertility treatments that won’t ever work.
At the same time, patients who have had many unsuccessful cycles of IVF but do not have the genetic signature may be advised to continue, as they have a far greater chance of conceiving.
“This information gives clinicians much more clarity in counselling patients as to the wisdom of investing further time, effort and money in ongoing treatment,” said Professor Frank Holstege from the University Medical Center Utrecht.
During the trials, all women who suffered from the problem tested positive for the genetic signature and 81 percent of those who didn’t have it were given the thumbs up after a biopsy of their womb lining.
“Many women undergo a number of IVF cycles without success despite having good quality embryos and, up to now, it has been unclear whether or not the lining of the womb may be the cause of that,” Professor Nick Macklon, medical director of Complete Fertility Centre Southampton, told The Telegraph. “We have now shown that an abnormal gene expression in the lining can be identified in many of these women and that a specific gene ‘fingerprint’, when present, is always associated with failure, which is very significant in aiding our understanding of IVF failure.”
What’s more, another test could be developed to give IVF patients a clearer idea of how likely they are to achieve a pregnancy before they start the process, as well as offer guidance to other patients on whether they should carry on after unsuccessful cycles.
Many women have to pay privately for IVF treatment due to a lack of NHS funding in many parts of the U.K. It can cost thousands of pounds per cycle, adding financial pressure to the huge emotional strain of going through invasive, unsuccessful procedures.
“While we believe this finding to be a very significant development in international fertility research, the next stage is to trial it as a clinical test to study its effectiveness on a wider scale,” said Professor Macklon.