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Endometrial scratching boosts IVF odds by 20 percent, says study

In vitro fertilization can cost families looking to have kids more than $10,000 per attempt, but pregnancy more often than not, won't occur.

Rates for pregnancy for women using assisted reproductive technology hover around less than 30 percent, WebMD notes. Now, researchers are reporting a technique, called "endometrial scratching" may boost pregnancy odds by as much as 20 percent.

Endometrial scratching is exactly what it sounds like. Doctors intentionally cause damage to the endometrium, which is the inner tissue lining the uterus, by using a biopsy or tool called a curette to scrape its surface. The scratches are thought to make it easier for embryos to attach to the uterus, raising the odds of pregnancy.

"We put a little device through the next of the womb, a bit like having a smear, and take a sample," Dr. Nick Raine-Fenning, an associate professor of reproductive medicine and surgery at the University of Nottingham in the U.K., said to CBS News' Tina Kraus. "It is straightforward and painless."

Raine-Fenning and colleagues worked with scientists in Brazil to recruit 158 women who had undergone unsuccessful IVF procedures. They gave 77 the scratch procedure.

They found women who had the procedure had about a 49 percent rate of pregnancy, compared to 29 percent in the other group. Thirty-three of the procedures resulted in live births, Sky News reported.

Doctors aren't exactly sure what makes the procedure effective, but Raine-Fenning speculates the damage to the endometrium gets the uterus to "sort of regenerate and fix itself," he said.

The study has yet to be published, but the researchers hope to test more women until the study is released next year.

Jo Cummings, 36, of Nottingham said the procedure helped her get pregnant. She's expecting a baby boy after trying unsuccessfully to become pregnant for more than three years.

"As you get older, you just feel that time is running out," she said. "There's lots of dark days where you think it's never going to happen."

She said the scratch was painful, but well worth it.

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