I’ve just had my third cycle of IUI, or intrauterine insemination. My first attempt was nine months ago, shortly after I miscarried and was raring to get pregnant again as soon as possible. We went through two cycles, both unsuccessful and then decided to go back to traditional methods for a while as I was finding it difficult balancing the treatments with work and just found the whole process a bit mechanical.
Nearly one year later and we’re back on it. If you’re not familiar with the procedure, you might be wondering, what is IUI? My husband, rather romantically, calls it turkey basting. Essentially it is a way of getting the little swimmers closer to the target. The doctor takes a sample of your partner’s semen, washes it to make it more concentrated, then inserts it in to your uterus through a thin catheter. This increases the chances of the sperm getting to the fallopian tubes. The rest is down to nature. It’s not for everyone, but if you are struggling to conceive it may be an option you want to consider.
I’ve put together a list of a few useful things you might want to know before you try IUI.
IS IUI EXPENSIVE?
It can be, depending on where you live and who your doctor is. When I first did IUI, the whole process cost us around SG$1,000 (approx. US$720). This time round we have racked up a bill of around SG$2,000 (approx. US$1,450).
You’ll need to cover fertility drugs, the doctor’s consultation, a pre-ovulation scan, HCG shot, washing the sperm, the actual procedure, and potentially post-medication and blood tests. My doctor prescribed Femara, which was SG$170 (approx. US$120) for 10 tablets, compared to my previous doctor who charged just a couple of bucks for Serophene.
Our new doctor is far more thorough about the whole procedure – I’ve been in to her clinic four times already this cycle. It might seem a bit excessive but by monitoring me so early she’s managed to catch my eggs at the optimum size. I’ve had a bit of an issue with my eggs growing supersize by the time I actually ovulate, which means they’re not as good quality. This time she gave me the HCG trigger shot so I ovulated on day 8!
I feel confident that we’re in with a really good shot this cycle – I have three eggs from the Femara and we got the timing right – so it’s worth the investment. It’s still cheaper than IVF and if it gets quicker results than months of consultations and timed intercourse then it might even be more cost effective. I have friends who use cheaper doctors, so I would say that this is at the upper end of the scale and there are likely more affordable options.
CAN ANYONE DO IUI?
Again this will depend on where you live. Singapore has more traditional views on the family unit, so you need to be married and must show your certificate to prove this. You and your partner are also required to do an HIV test under MOH ruling – I’m not sure if this rule applies in other countries.
Your doctor will be able to advise if IUI is the right treatment for you, and will need to check that your fallopian tubes are not blocked. It can be a good option if you have cervical mucus problems, your partner has a low sperm count or low sperm movement, or you simply have unexplained infertility.
DOES IUI HURT?
No. It feels a bit like getting a pap smear, so it might be a bit uncomfortable but it shouldn’t be painful. I did however have a mild burning feeling for a couple of days after, only when we had sex. I also think my husband may have been cutting chilies earlier in the day. Bastard.
HOW LONG DOES IUI TAKE?
The actual procedure itself is pretty quick. You could be in and out within an hour. It takes a few minutes to insert the sperm, and then some doctors will let you lie back with your feet up for 15-30 minutes to let gravity do its job.
However, if you have numerous appointments it can be quite time consuming. I have the luxury of not being at work at the moment so I didn’t mind going to the clinic four times in eight days, but I would struggle to do that if I was at my previous job. You might be able to cut this down to two visits though. I was a wimp and didn’t want to do the HCG injection myself at home so I had to go see the nurse. I also had to pick up the Femara on day 2, but some doctors may give this to you the month before. Your partner will need to go in on the morning of the IUI to deposit his sample. It’s not compulsory for him to be present at the actual procedure, but it seems a bit weird if he’s not, right? Let’s not lose all the romance of baby making!
If you can I would advise that you take some time out to do IUI. That doesn’t mean quitting your job, but at least take a couple of days off, or certainly the day of the treatment itself. Don’t put pressure on yourself – it’s not worth it.
CAN I EXERCISE AFTER IUI?
‘Be still’ my doctor told me. Implantation can start from 5dpo so she advised me not to move much in the week after IUI to help the process along. That means no running or high impact exercise. Gentle movement is ok, such as swimming, yoga or walking, but if you’re investing so much in this treatment (time, money, energy), you may as well play it safe and have a break from your exercise routine for a week or so.
CAN I DRINK ALCOHOL AFTER IUI?
Best not to. My doctor told me to act as though you are already pregnant and stay off the booze. This one I find particularly tough, not because I’m a raging alcoholic, but it can be challenging to go out with friends and not drink – especially if you don’t want them to know you’re TTC. Some of my close friends know we are trying, but I still don’t want them to assume I’m pregnant when I might not be yet. But then again maybe they can just assume what they want to assume! Let’s face it, I’m in my 30s – no one’s going to make me drink if I don’t want to.
If this is hard for you, try ordering a non-alcoholic beer, or order an alcoholic drink and put it to your lips every now and then but don’t sip – you’ll need to either tip some away subtly when you can or get your partner to drink it for you. Or just order a diet coke, tonic and lime, or ginger beer and don’t make a big deal about it – likely no one will really notice, and if they do they do.
WHAT SHOULD I EAT AFTER IUI?
You are probably already eating a healthy balanced diet if you are trying to get pregnant, so follow the same rules and make sure you eat protein rich foods, healthy fats, dark leafy greens and lots of antioxidants. A lot of people also believe that pineapples are a secret fertility food. The bromelain in the pineapple core thins the blood, so more can flow to your uterus and help embryos ‘stick’ during implantation. Eat one to two slices of pineapple a day for five days after ovulation and make sure you eat the core. Pomegranates are also supposed to aid blood flow so drink the juice or eat the seeds in salads or with yoghurt.
CAN I HAVE SEX AFTER IUI?
Yes! Just because you’re doing a fertility treatment, it doesn’t mean sex is off the menu. You can have sex on the same day as your IUI or within the next 48 hours to make sure you catch your ovulation. If you do have any pain or bleeding though do speak to your doctor.
Hopefully that gives some first hand insight in to IUI. The most important thing to remember though is to relax – stressing about the treatment and the do’s and don’ts isn’t going to do you any good.
I would love to hear your IUI success stories and any other tips or titbits you have. Leave me a comment and let me know what worked for you!