The Turkey Baster
As far back as the 1900’s, artificial insemination has been used as a means to achieve pregnancy. Of course, in those days, all you needed was a candidate with some healthy sperm and a turkey baster. These days, things have become quite a bit more technical and the sperm is washed and then placed in the uterus with a great deal of care. The procedure even has a fancy name: intrauterine insemination, also known as IUI.
Is IUI right for you? That depends on the specifics of your fertility situation. If you have a sperm allergy, your partner has sperm with poor motility, or his sperm count is a bit low, IUI can help, since it helps the sperm get to where it can do the most good: to your egg. And if you have what is known as an unexplained fertility problem, sometimes IUI can be helpful. On the other hand, if your partner has a super low sperm count or his sperm motility is very poor, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is the way to go.
If your doctor decides you’re a good candidate for this procedure, you’ll almost certainly be given a fertility drug before the procedure to improve your chances of achieving a pregnancy. These drugs are administered at the start of your menstrual cycle to help stimulate your ovaries to develop lots of mature eggs for fertilization, instead of the usual one egg per cycle, or month.
You will also use an ovulation detection kit or your doctor will use ultrasound to calculate the time of ovulation. This helps your doctor figure out the best time to perform the insemination. Your doctor may also decide to give you medication to help induce ovulation.
Once ovulation is achieved, your partner will need to produce a sperm sample. The sperm undergoes a washing procedure which helps to concentrate the healthiest sperm into a smaller amount of fluid. The doctor employs a catheter to insert the concentrated sperm straight into your uterus, through the cervix. You will want to take a pregnancy test two weeks after the procedure.
The procedure takes less than an hour to perform. However, you may be on fertility drugs for about a week prior to ovulation. Most couples undergo from 3-6 cycles of IUI before pregnancy is achieved or before they decide to go on to try a different treatment. You have a 5-20% chance of becoming pregnant with each cycle. Fertility drugs give rates at the upper end of that scale. IUI is less expensive and less invasive than ART or IVF. IUI works better than timing natural intercourse according to the woman’s cycle.
The downside of the procedure is that your partner will have to masturbate into a cup at your doctor’s office. Also, you and your partner will have to be ready to get to your physician at the exact time of ovulation. You should have about a 24-36 hour warning in advance of the time.