Pregnant naturally – with poppy-seed oil as the key to success? Find out the latest on an old reliable fertility test.
A new Australian study shows that a diagnostic test for women with infertility, who have difficulty getting pregnant, significantly helps natural conception. I got a mad flurry of questions, so I decided to write a blog post explaining all about the procedure, the study, its benefits and limitations. Hope this helps keep you up to date.
Firstly, HSG or hysterosalpingogram, is a routine fertility test for women. It which involves filling he uterus with a liquid dye which is visualised under x-ray. It’s tracked around the womb via x-rays and as it flows into the Fallopian tubes. As well as revealing abnormalities within the uterus, blockages or narrowing of the tubes can be seen. Doctors began to how notice many women often become pregnant soon afterwards – without any other fertility treatment. No-one knew how to predict the likelihood of pregnancy success for women having the procedure. Some just got lucky.
Enter lead investigator, Ben Mol, a professor of gynaecology and obstetrics and researcher at the Robinson Research Institute at the University of Adelaide. He wanted to find out more, and decided to check out the liquid contrast medium used for the flushing of the Fallopian tubes. ‘This is an important outcome for women who would have had no other choice of action other than to seek IVF,” revealed Professor Ben Mol from the Netherlands. In a bizarre twist, and unbeknownst to him, Ben was conceived after his mother had a Hysterosalpingogram or HSG, having been trying to conceive for nine years!
He and his team compared results from over a thousand women undergoing the procedure in Amsterdam. The H2Oil study compared the effects of using a water-based flush with a poppy seed oil-based one. “The rates of successful pregnancy were significantly higher in the oil-based group, and after only one treatment,’ explained Dr. Mol. “It’s not clear what gives oil the advantage.”
Poppy seed oil is key to success
Results showed that a poppy seed oil-based flush is more effective than another water-based contrast medium commonly used – as 40% of women in the oil group versus 28% in the water group became pregnant naturally within six months of having the procedure. Fallopian tubes can get clogged with mucous or debris which may interfere with fertilisation of the egg or impede movement of the embryo to the uterus. More women may now benefit from this simple test that has been safely in use since 1917, and may not need to have expensive or emotionally challenging IVF treatments.
How does oil work?
As well as clearing out tubes that aren’t totally blocked – a bit like blowing your nose – oil may alter the local environment, change the chemistry of macrophage cell output to make it a nicer place for sperm to hang out. Some theories say the flush straightens out small kinks in the tubes, disperses adhesions – like blowing into a sticky rubber glove. Others hold on to the idea of antibacterial action by the oil on the mucous membranes.
Why didn’t I get pregnant after HSG?
I like to know the facts and nuances before I get wildly excited about a study, so here’s some background. This study was an excellent one and full kudos go to Prof. Mol and his team. However, before anyone feels bad they didn’t get pregnant after HSG, let me tell you a bit about the composition of the study group. Women with endometriosis, PCOS or endocrine disorders did not make it into the study. Neither did couples with male factor problems. That is a whole lot of the clients I work with, treat and support. The test is is recommended by doctors for a lot of women as part of a thorough fertility work-up to rule out any co-existing abnormalities. In fairness, Prof. Mol focused on comparing oil versus water and was not doing a comparison study of IVF versus HSG.
Firstly, HSG is a diagnostic test with fringe benefits! Leave the poppy seed oil in the fridge – and please, do not attempt any weird DIY flushes at home. Second, pouring it over salad or taking it as a shot is fine but it won’t do anything for the tubes. Thirdly, there may be a 3-6 month window of opportunity for getting pregnant after it if an oil based medium is used.
It works for some women but like everything fertility related, there are no guarantees. If you have medical issues like endocrine or ovarian problems, you need to have those medically treated. No-one wants to waste time when trying to get pregnant, so discuss it with your doctor.
I hope this clears up any questions for you. Feel free to email me your queries.
Til next time here’s some more pearls of wisdom –