Study Finds Poppyseed Oil Treatment May Boost Fertility

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iStock

Hear us out: This is a lot less wacky than it sounds. Researchers say a common medical imaging technique involving poppyseed oil may actually help women conceive. They published their report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It’s called a hysterosalpingography, and you won’t want to try it at home. The process involves flushing a person’s fallopian tubes with contrast dye mixed with fluid, usually poppyseed oil, then using an X-ray machine to look for blockages. It’s a time-tested technique for getting a clearer picture of a patient’s reproductive workings.

Could it also be a way of getting those workings to, well, work? Researchers wondered if the flushing process had any effect on fertility success, and, if so, if the oil used had anything to do with it.

To find out, they recruited would-be parents from 27 hospitals in the Netherlands. Each of the 1119 women involved in the study underwent a routine hysterosalpingography as doctors tried to pinpoint the cause of their difficulty conceiving. Half of the procedures used poppyseed oil as a medium for the contrast dye; the other half used water. Six months after the imaging session, the researchers followed up to see who’d gotten pregnant.

The oil appeared to have provided a distinct advantage for women trying to conceive. At the six-month mark, 39.7 percent of women in the oil-flushing group were pregnant, compared to 29.1 percent in the water group—and they got pregnant faster as well. The benefits seemed to last through pregnancy and into childbirth; at the next follow-up, 38.8 percent of women in the oil group had had babies, compared to 28.1 percent of women in the control group.

Reproductive medicine expert Tim Child, of Oxford Fertility, was not involved in the study but expressed excitement. "I think this will change people’s practice," he told New Scientist.

Those people could include Child himself, who said he’d consider trying oil flushing on its own, unaccompanied by X-rays. "It looks like it’s not just an investigation [but] a treatment," he said.

The research team notes that their study had some limitations. All study participants were healthy and under the age of 39, and it’s possible the oil’s benefits may not extend to everyone. And flushing a patient’s fallopian tubes won’t help if the root of the issue lies elsewhere.

"If you know your infertility is due to poor semen quality or no ovulation, then this is not going to help," corresponding author Ben Mol, of the University of Adelaide, told New Scientist, "but if there’s any other cause this might be beneficial," he says. "It’s really cheap compared with IVF."

Mol says he may have the procedure to thank for his own existence. After starting the study, he learned that his parents had been trying to conceive for eight years before his mother had a hysterosalpingogram. And then, Mol says, they succeeded: "It’s highly likely my brother and I are the result of this."

[h/t New Scientist]

This $49 Video Game Design Course Will Teach You Everything From Coding to Digital Art Skills

EvgeniyShkolenko/iStock via Getty Images
EvgeniyShkolenko/iStock via Getty Images

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A Prehistoric Great White Shark Nursery Has Been Discovered in Chile

Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
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Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) may be one of the most formidable and frightening apex predators on the planet today, but life for them isn’t as easy as horror movies would suggest. Due to a slow growth rate and the fact that they produce few offspring, the species is listed as vulnerable to extinction.

There is a way these sharks ensure survival, and that is by creating nurseries—a designated place where great white shark babies (called pups) are protected from other predators. Now, researchers at the University of Vienna and colleagues have discovered these nurseries occurred in prehistoric times.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, Jamie A. Villafaña from the university’s Institute of Palaeontology describes a fossilized nursery found in Coquimbo, Chile. Researchers were examining a collection of fossilized great white shark teeth between 5 and 2 million years old along the Pacific coast of Chile and Peru when they noticed a disproportionate number of young shark teeth in Coquimbo. There was also a total lack of sexually mature animals' teeth, which suggests the site was used primarily by pups and juveniles as a nursery.

Though modern great whites are known to guard their young in designated areas, the researchers say this is the first example of a paleo-nursery. Because the climate was much warmer when the paleo-nursery was in use, the researchers think these protective environments can deepen our understanding of how great white sharks can survive global warming trends.