Device size of a 5p coin could help infertile couples conceive naturally

‘If we can prove that this device works, is comfortable and safe, then it can go on to make big changes in healthcare’

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Saturday 22 September 2018 20:26
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Scientists hope their new device will help determine what makes a ‘healthy’ womb
Scientists hope their new device will help determine what makes a ‘healthy’ womb

A device no bigger than a 5p coin has been developed to help infertile couples conceive naturally.

Fertility specialists at the University of Southampton created the tiny implant to monitor oxygen, pH and temperature inside the womb.

They want to use their device to work out what a “healthy” womb environment looks like by comparing measurements from women who are able to conceive with those who are not.

According to NHS figures, around one in seven UK couples experience problems when trying to conceive, equating to around 3.5 million people.

Infertility can be caused by many factors and can affect both men and women, but in around a quarter of cases doctors are unable to identify a specific cause.

“Currently, fertility tests take time and some couples may not receive a diagnosis for their issues straight away,” explained Professor Ying Cheong, a reproductive medicine specialist who is leading the study using the new device.

“We want to get to the stage where we know what a healthy womb environment looks like, and to make measuring levels inside the womb as simple as taking a blood pressure reading.”

The new device is implanted just like a contraceptive coil, and is intended to remain in place for up to a week.

While inside the womb it wirelessly sends readings to a data chip attached to a special set of underwear worn by the patient.

After the study period has ended, the doctors remove the device and analyse the data that has been collected.

“We are extremely excited about the positive impact this device could have on the NHS and patients in the future,” said Professor Cheong.

“Not only could it give doctors the ability to diagnose fertility issues sooner – and potentially reduce the burden that fertility treatment brings to our patients – but it also has promising potential to inform the development of new fertility therapies and treatments.”

Many people who have trouble conceiving naturally turn to in vitro fertilisation, which only has a limited chance of success and can cost over £5,000 for a single treatment if administered privately.

Professor Cheong’s study will recruit women from fertility and miscarriage clinics, as well as those without fertility issues, to participate in a trial.

Initially they will test how safe and effective it is in a sample of 30 women from the university’s fertility clinic.

“The most exciting part is yet to come. If we can prove that this device works, is comfortable and safe, then it can go on to make big changes in healthcare,” said Professor Cheong.

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