As part of a patient’s treatment sometimes additional fertility procedures can be recommended; endometrial scratch is fertility procedure that we can recommend in certain cases, especially where there have been failed cycles. In this article, I explain endometrial scratch and the evidence supporting it.
Endometrial scratch is an additional fertility procedure where the endometrium (lining) is disturbed prior to an IVF cycle. This helps the embryo implant in the womb which is an essential part of fertilisation.
Before IVF, the womb lining is scratched with a small sterile plastic tube, which triggers the body to repair, releasing chemicals and hormones that make the womb lining more receptive to an embryo implanting.
There is reasonably good evidence that suggests that by doing an endometrial scratch prior to an IVF cycle or prior to embryo replacement success rates may be improved. This evidence now comes from previous two or more failed cycles where this intervention could be helpful.
There are no risks associated with endometrial scratch, so it is considered a safe procedure.
Endometrial scratch is still relatively new and we are unaware whether there may be an improvement in pregnancy rates if it is done before an intrauterine insemination cycle.
In one of the largest studies which was published in Fertility and Sterility in 2017, an analysis was done of 23 studies of a total of 1871 cycles in which the endometrial scratch was done in the cycle prior. The evidence suggested that a scratch may improve the chances of a pregnancy in an intrauterine insemination cycle.
Though doing this may seem better, its evidence is not as good as that in IVF. The studies also concluded that the evidence was not as robust as performed in the IVF studies, and thus this should be taken more cautiously.
The HFEA regard endometrial scratch as a procedure which consistently shows benefit however further evidence is needed and as such there is a large clinical trial underway in the UK called the Endometrial Scratch Trial.