When you’re struggling with the heartbreak of infertility, it can be difficult to imagine what you wouldn’t do to conceive. Couples will turn over just about every rock on Earth if there’s even a chance at pregnancy underneath. Everything from expensive IVF to acupuncture is on the table.
But what about a steady, intravenous drip of raw egg yolk and soy bean oil? It might sound like complete woo, but it’s a treatment some fertility specialists do offer, and people swear up and down that it works like a charm.
It’s called intralipid infusion therapy, and every once in awhile we’ll hear a story of a miracle baby born through the use of it, even after multiple failed attempts to conceive. The most recent may be the Humphrey family, who credit IIT with the birth of their twins, Loretta and Logan. They went outside of their home country of Britain to get the treatment in Greece after four in vitro attempts that ended in heartache. They aren’t the only ones to laud the treatment, however, and it’s been making the rounds on fertility message boards as well, where moms swear that it finally did the trick.
So what’s the catch?
Well, to understand what intralipid treatment is, you have to understand what it’s meant to be treating. There are typically considered to be two reasons that IVF is unsuccessful. Either the embryos have trouble implanting, or the embryos implant but are lost through miscarriage at around eight weeks. It’s believed that at least part of the cause in either circumstance is because of an unusually high presence of two immunological entities: a certain type of antibody and natural killer cell — or NKC activity — both of which can prevent implantation from occurring altogether or attack the embryo when it does.
The mix of egg yolk and soy bean oil is thought to boost the immune system to counteract these effects by introducing a high concentration of fatty acids into the mix. But does it work?
Well, the jury is still sort of out.
There just isn’t enough definitive research on the books to back this up as the miracle cure it purports to be. The limited research that we do have is considered to be largely anecdotal but it is positive. In observational studies, it would appear that around half of the women who receive the treatment go on to have a live birth, compared to the usual percentage of women receiving IVF which lingers in the single digits.
Similarly, true anecdotal evidence — that is, people saying, “yep, it worked for me!” — points to a higher success rate. But there are a few issues with both of those things.
The first is that those initial positive studies are so small that they’ve not yet been substantiated or replicated, which means that they fail a very basic scientific test. The second is that when you hang out on internet message boards, you’re bound to encounter at least a little confirmation bias. The many, many stories of intralipid therapy succeeding where other treatments (sometimes as many as six rounds of IVF) have failed is also concerning; is it that that egg yolk and soybean oil worked a miracle, or would that last treatment have worked anyway?
We would love to see more research done into this one, particularly where not just the efficacy but the safety of the procedure are explored. In the meantime, it’s up to women whether or not intralipid infusion therapy is something they want to take out for a spin, and if this is a rock that can be flipped and checked for solutions, many will probably err on the side of angels.
If it is as simplistic, successful and inexpensive as its cheerleaders say it is, then that’s good news, not just for IVF patients, but for people who hope to prevent a miscarriage.
We sure hope that it is!
Before you go, check out our slideshow below: