Ben Mol, a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Adelaide, has been studying women’s reproductive health and medicine for decades.
— Ben Willem Mol (@bwmol) December 2, 2016
Recently, the Australian researcher made a breakthrough in affordable fertility treatments based on a 100-year-old procedure.
Little did he know, however, he was more closely connected to his findings than he could have ever imagined.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the procedure, known as as a hysterosalpingography, is an X-ray of a woman’s reproductive organs often used to determine if there are any blockages of the fallopian tubes.
A fluid is injected into the uterus and fallopian tubes, lighting it up in an X-ray, which doctors can then determine the inner size and shape of the organs as well as how the fluid moves throughout.
Although the procedure was reportedly first performed in 1917, it is rarely used anymore due to advancements in technology such as the ultrasound.
— Eva Martin, MD (@ElmTreeMedical) March 9, 2017
As Australia’s ABC News reports, as part of one of the largest studies of its kind, Mol performed the age-old procedure using an oil-based product known as Lipiodol Ultra-Fluid — iodized poppy seed oil.
The researcher discovered that when a group of 550 women had their fallopian tubes flushed with the iodized poppy seed oil, 40 percent became pregnant within six months.
By comparison, only 29 percent of the other half of the group became pregnant when their fallopian tubes were flushed with a water-based solution.
Only 20 percent of the women were expected to be able to conceive without any treatment at all.Flickr CC/Cody
Mol told Australia’s ABC News that hysterosalpingographies have been widely believed to improve fertility:
“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.
“Over the past century, pregnancy rates among infertile women reportedly increased after their tubes had been flushed with either water or oil during this X-ray procedure,” he said.
“Until now, it has been unclear whether the type of solution used in the procedure was influencing the change in fertility.
Our results have been even more exciting than we could have predicted, helping to confirm that an age-old medical technique still has an important place in modern medicine.”
Interestingly, after Mol made his findings he stumbled across another discovery. His mother, too, had the procedure performed over 50 years ago.
According to News Corp Australia Network, Mol discovered that his mother had been unable to conceive for nearly a decade prior to having the treatment performed in 1964. Within a year she gave birth — to him.
The researcher had no idea his mother had become pregnant after undergoing the procedure.
“She is proud, she thinks it’s an interesting finding,” he said.
Mol has high hopes for the results which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the 13th World Congress on Endometriosis in Vancouver, Canada.
The researcher believes the century-old treatment is an alternative to in vitro fertilization (IVF) at a “fraction of the cost,” and advises the 15-minute procedure be offered to women first before IVF.
Two tv appearances last week on overuse of IVF pic.twitter.com/Uza7Bw2kYo
— Ben Willem Mol (@bwmol) February 2, 2014
Not everyone believes flushing the fallopian tubes with poppy seed oil is a panacea for infertile women, however.
Dr. David Malloy with the Australian Fertility Society told Australia’s ABC News that women who seek IVF have more complicated fertility issues, suggesting the flushing procedure works best for low-risk women who are just beginning to seek treatment for infertility.
Mol has claimed there are other advantages to the flushing treatment compared to IVF that aren’t just cost-based, as well, such as fewer twin or multiple pregnancies as opposed to IVF, and the overall low-risk nature of the procedure that has no known side effects.
Mol claimed that in one case a woman did die when the dye got into her bloodstream. Although the dye stays in the body, Mol said there is no evidence it poses any risk to mother or baby.
Mol remains certain his findings support a practical alternative to IVF, as he told the News Corp Australia Network: “Considering that 40 percent of women in the oil-based group achieved a successful pregnancy, that’s 40 percent of couples who could avoid having to go through the huge costs and emotions associated with IVF treatment.”