What is ‘IUI’? intrauterine insemination explained

A year ago Jay and I wandered into our doctor’s office and nervously explained that we wanted a baby. Since that day there’s been several hours of counselling, blood tests for every disease imaginable, ultrasounds and a toe-curling procedure call a ‘hycosy’ (it involves saline being injected into the uterus and fallopian tubes). Finally the treatment begins!

IUI, Intrauterine Insemination or Assisted Insemination

Jay and I are starting out with a procedure called ‘Intrauterine Insemination’ (IUI).  IUI is

a form of assisted conception involving assisted insemination into the uterus. IUI can be carried out with a woman’s natural cycles or with ovarian stimulation (superovulation) using clomiphene or follicle stimulating hormone, with ovarian monitoring. This process is used for either donor insemination (DI) or with a partner/husband’s semen (AIH) (Genea).

Like IVF, IUI is provided by a fertility clinic (we’re with Genea) and a specialist doctor. Many of the medications are similar, but as the eggs aren’t removed from the woman’s body there’s no operations or hospital stays. It’s also a bit cheaper which is always a bonus.

Medicines

While IUI can be done using the woman’s natural cycle, our specialist prescribed three medications:

  • Puregon – it helps follicles to develop (those small round sacs containing egg-cells)
  • Pregnyl – ripens an egg cell in the ovaries and releases the egg (ovulation)
  • Oripro – prepares the uterus to receive and maintain a fertilized egg

The Purgeon and Pregnyl are self-administered injections which had me a little worried. I’m now a few days into it, and it hasn’t been that bad; more psychological than anything else. The needle is very small (much smaller than the needle the doctor uses to give you a flu shot), so you only feel a very small pinch. 

The Oripro is a progesterone pessary, which is inserted at night. It’s very messy, so wearing a pad might be a good idea.

Tests

The fertility clinic monitors how your follicles are developing and responding to the medicines by regular blood tests and ultrasounds. Genea has a ‘morning clinic’, so I didn’t need to take time out of work to have these procedures.

The blood tests monitor the amount of estradiol (estrogen) in the blood. I got my first blood test three days after beginning the Puregon injections, and they continued roughly every two days until insemination.

The ultrasounds monitor the size and growth of the follicles. Ultrasound scanning uses an ultrasound probe placed in the vagina. There’s no need to have a full bladder for this test. I had four to five ultrasounds per cycle, which started five days after beginning the Purgeon.

Insemination

The insemination involves placing the washed sperm directly into the uterus. It is very anti-climatic, and feels similar to a pap smear.

I arrived at the clinic 45 minutes before the insemination. During this time I filled out paperwork, and a nurse took my pulse and blood pressure.

The procedure itself takes about five minutes, but I was asked to ‘marinate’ for another 15 minutes afterwards to give the best chance of conception.

After the insemination, I went home and watched netflix with Jay. It was a nerve-wracking time, but physically I felt fine and able to get on with my usual activities.

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