The Daily Mail posted an article on 50 women who collectively had had 150 failed IVF treatment attempts till they were able to conceive. It was all down to a fertility treatment called Immunomodulation Therapy, costing around £7,000 a cycle. That’s around £2,000 more than conventional fertility treatment.
Immunomodulation Therapy works by flooding your bloodstreams with fatty acids which reduce the ability of the body’s NK cells to produce toxic chemicals.
These toxins can attack and reject the developing embryo as a foreign object.
The fats are about 200 calories a dose.
Administered via a drip usually twice before conception, and then three more times after, the treatment is thought to help the embryo implant and grow normally.
Alongside this, women are also recommended to take steroids, which further suppress the immune system, and blood thinners to prevent blood clots, which also can impede embryos implanting.
In an era of practising ‘evidence based medicine’, the beneficial use of Intralipids in IVF treatment is controversial, mainly because there are no large randomised controlled trials to look at its efficacy. This does not mean, of course, that intralipids should not be used and do not have any benefit. It is becoming ever more apparent that, in some women, their immune system may be the cause of failure of implantation, but it is trying to identify who those women are that is often the problem.
Indeed, whilst the identification of Natural Killer Cells either in blood or in the womb is possible, we do not know if abnormal NK cell levels cause implantation failure or not. However, when treating couples who have had repeated IVF cycle failures, I do not think that women should be denied the option of taking additional, unproven treatments, as long as those treatments do no harm.
The use of intralipids and steroids potentially have significant, if not proven, benefits with minimal risk. Whether or not the immunomodulation therapy resulted in the birth of the babies delivered, the stories are inspiring to those who may feel like their situation is hopeless. There are never any guarantees in IVF treatment, as many couples learn very quickly, and I believe it is not giving false hope but some hope.
Consultant in Reproductive Medicine