I don’t want to brag, but I consider myself a bit of an old pro at intrauterine insemination (IUI), so I thought I would blog about some tips and tricks that I learned over the past six months of treatment. If you’re new to my blog, I’ll start by telling you that IUI didn’t work for me — but it does work for many people and I think there are a lot of good reasons to start with a low tech option like IUI before you move on to IVF.
It really is low-tech
IUI is MUCH less invasive. The procedure is outpatient and seriously over in about five minutes (15 minutes if you count the 10 minutes that ask you to stay laying down after the procedure.) Seriously. The first one I had, I was shocked by how quick it was. I’m pretty sure I said, “Really, that’s it?” They literally shoot the washed sperm through a small catheter and into your uterus. You lay down for a few minutes, and then you’re done!
It is cost effective, compared to other options
Depending on the cost of your medication, IUI can be very affordable. Compared to IVF, which can cost $10K+, IUI only costs around $300-$700 plus the cost of your medication. Medication could bump it up a lot though, depending on what you’re taking and what your insurance covers. Generally, if you’re starting with a less aggressive approach, medications like Clomid and Femara are very cheap. Once you get into injectables, the price increases drastically. Your insurance may cover IUI, even if they don’t cover IVF.
It may hurt a little bit
I went into my first IUI thinking it would be smooth sailing, so I was surprised to feel some brief pain when they inserted the catheter. It was nothing major, but since I would told it was a painless procedure, it did catch me off guard. One more fun experience to add to the poking and prodding!
You can still try on your own
I liked that we could still try to conceive on our own during an IUI cycle. We were able to try up until the night before the IUI, when they asked us to abstain to build up hubby’s supply. We were also encouraged to have sex the night of the IUI. You probably won’t be in the mood and a little sore, but it is worth it if it ups your chance of success. *Every situation is different, so always take the advice of your doctor when it comes to timing sex.
Your doctor has less control
I always thought that most multiples resulted from IVF, but it turns out many twins and higher order multiples come from IUI because your doctor has much less control. IVF has improved to the point where single embryo transfers are frequently recommended, greatly reducing the number of resulting twin pregnancies. With IUI, the goal is usually to have 2-3 mature follicles, so you’re always at risk of multiples. It can be a cruel game of hoping it works, but doesn’t work TOO well.
Get ready to leak
After IUI, you’ll most likely be put on progesterone suppositories to make sure you have enough progesterone to support a pregnancy. These little jelly bean-like pills are inserted right into your vagina and then slowly dissolve throughout the day. Pantyliners will be your new best friends.
Your chances are improved, but not that much
I was surprised to find out that based on our diagnosis and ages, with IUI our chances of pregnancy were about 16%. While that is better than the 1-2% that our doctor told us we were looking at after trying to conceive for 1.5 years on our own, we were still a little disappointed that the chances weren’t higher. With IVF, the chances are much higher, but so is the cost, time commitment, and physical toll.
It’s a time commitment
Because each cycle has no more than a 20% chance of working, my doctor recommended doing 3-4 IUIs before we moved on to IVF. I became discouraged after the first two because I was so ready for something to work, but ultimately was glad we ended up doing 4 IUIs (plus a cycle where I took meds but over-responded). I felt like I had fully exhausted that option and was ready to move on.