People considering fertility treatment often ask about clinical trials, and there are a couple of big multi-centre trials taking place in the UK at the moment which may be of interest. Taking part in a trial can be a really positive thing to do as you will be helping to improve understanding of techniques which may help make IVF more successful in future.
The first trial is called E-Freeze and is investigating whether using frozen thawed embryos rather than fresh ones may lead to improved success rates in IVF. The theory behind this is that if the embryos are frozen rather than replaced straight away, the delay in embryo transfer means that any effects of the hormones used to stimulate the ovaries have worn off and the womb has time to return to its natural state.
Without more research it isn't certain whether a fresh transfer or a frozen thawed embryo transfer is better in the first cycle of treatment so the trial will compare the two in order to find out whether one or the other gives a better chance of having a healthy baby.
Couples taking part in the study will be randomised to either have embryo transfer straight away as usual in IVF, or to have their embryos frozen and replaced later to see if this improves outcomes. There is a lot of information for anyone considering taking part, including a list of participating centres, and a video to explain more on the trial web pages. You need to be under the age of 42 and resident in the UK to take part in the trial which is being conducted across England and in Scotland. You would not be eligible if you are using donor sperm or eggs or if you are having pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.
The other trial is looking at endometrial scratch - a process which involves scratching the womb lining in the month before IVF treatment. There has been some research looking at this in women who've had repeated unsuccessful IVF cycles which suggest it may improve outcomes, but this new trial is looking at those who are having their first cycle. The study is based in Sheffield, but will be taking place at clinics around the country. It involves placing a small tube about the size of a drinking straw through the neck of the womb and gently scratching the womb's lining.
Those taking part will be randomised to receive the scratch or not, and information from this trial may help doctors understand whether there is a benefit to offering it to women having IVF or ICSI for the first time in the future. If you want to find out more you can look at the information on the University of Sheffield website and there is a video to explain more about what is involved.
If you are offered the opportunity to take part in one of the clinical trials, you will be helping other fertility patients as these large trials allow doctors to measure any benefits carefully and this will enable them to offer more definitive advice going forwards.