Women, IUI & Potential Problems

IUI, Timing Is Of The Utmost Importance

Whether an IUI (intrauterine insemination) will be done with the sperm of her partner or donor sperm, a woman has some serious monitoring to do in order to fulfill her part of the process. When pregnancy cannot be achieved through natural means, IUI is often the first option used to address the situation.

IUI is the placement of sperm in the uterus in order to enhance the chance for pregnancy. During IUI, sperm, after being washed, are released into the uterus. Since sperm, once washed, have a very short life span, it is important they are inserted as close to ovulation as possible. Viability of washed sperm is usually less than 24 hours, so a woman has to have her finger on the pulse of her body's clock to be sure things happen when they should. With the help of an ovulation kit, LH surge levels can be tracked and a woman can tell when she will be ovulating to within a day or two.

Now Is The Time-Let's Get On With It

Working with the fertility specialist, a time for the IUI will be set according to the time of ovulation. Once in the clinic, the women will be taken to a procedure room where she will undress from the waist down and lie down on an examination table, covered with a sheet and with her feet in the stirrups-just as she would for a pap smear. A speculum is inserted into the vagina and the area is carefully cleaned prior to injecting the sperm.

The physician draws the sperm into a syringe with a flexible catheter attached to it. The catheter is threaded through the vagina and cervix and into the uterus. The plunger of the syringe is pressed and the sperm specimen flows into the uterus. Once the syringe is empty, the catheter is withdrawn and the speculum is removed. Usually the woman has the option of resting for a few minutes before getting up to get dressed. That is how it happens when everything goes well-which is most of the time.

When Difficulties Arise In IUI Procedures

Occasionally there are problems threading the catheter into the uterus. These problems are addressed in different ways, depending upon the nature of the difficulty. If a flexible catheter is too flexible, there are others that have a fine wire in them. This wire makes the catheter more rigid and allows the physician to bend it in order to follow the shape of the cervix more readily. Often, this is all that is needed to complete the IUI.

Sometimes the angle of the cervix is awkward and the physician performing the IUI may tug on the cervix to straighten the angle between the cervix and the uterus making it easier to pass through the cervix into the uterus. He does this with an instrument called a tenaculum, which he uses to grab hold of the cervix.

If, for some reason neither of the above methods works, then an ultrasound is used to allow the physician to see the direction of the cervix. He is then able to thread the catheter. Overall, there is little difference in physical sensation between an IUI procedure and a pap smear. Some women do have a small amount of cramping afterward which goes away quickly.


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