A new study has found that scratching the womb's lining prior to conceiving a baby could double pregnancy success rates. However, many experts urge caution on the use of the "endometrial scratch" technique.

The endometrial scratch procedure is typically done as a type of womb lining biopsy. The procedure produces inflammation or scratches that are believed to be favorable to the woman as it helps make the womb more receptive to an embryo implantation.

A research team analyzed data from randomized, controlled studies that looked into the effects of endometrial scratching among groups of women who were planning to undergo intrauterine insemination (IUI) or those attempting a spontaneous pregnancy with or without ovulation induction.

According to Sarah Lensen from the University of Auckland's Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the scratches in the womb lining appeared to benefit couples who are planning a natural conception or with IUI.

However, Lensen highlighted the low quality of the available evidence. The recent review covered 1,180 women from eight different trials. In these studies, endometrial scratching was assessed in comparison to having a placebo intervention or none at all.

The researchers noted that the primary results involved ongoing pregnancy, live births and pain stemming from the interventions.

Compared to a placebo intervention or none, scratching the womb lining appeared to improve the chances of both live births and clinical pregnancies.

Over a set time period, endometrial scratching could improve the live birth's or ongoing pregnancy's normal chances from 9 percent to between 14 and 28 percent.

However, the research found no evidence of the procedure's effects on ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or multiple pregnancies. Lensen stressed that the results should be "treated with caution."

"There's no evidence of good enough quality to imply that couples setting out to conceive spontaneously should seek this treatment from their doctors," said University of Southampton's obstetrician professor Nick Macklon.

Additionally, Adam Balen, the chairman of the British Fertility Society, said that they are "certainly not suggesting" that women who want to get pregnant should use this procedure in the hopes of a successful pregnancy.

Still, for many couples who are having a difficult time conceiving, the endometrial scratch technique, when proven effective, could lead to a massive breakthrough in the reproductive medicine and offer new hopes to hopeful parents-to-be.

The research was presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Biology's annual meeting in Helsinki, Finland this week.

Photo: Sara Neff | Flickr

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