Insemination By Any Other Name

Intrauterine Insemination or IUI

Many people who want to have children have found themselves in a position of being unable to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term. There are a variety of reasons why conception is difficult and there are also a variety of ways to address the situation in order to enhance the chance for pregnancy. One such method is called intrauterine insemination (IUI), also known as artificial insemination, human intrauterine insemination, and artificial insemination by husband (AIH). IUI is the placement of sperm in the uterus for the purpose of conception and pregnancy.

It's All About Timing For Both The Egg & The Sperm

In order to get the best results, timing is of the utmost importance when a couple is trying to conceive. One reason for this is that during intercourse the sperm travels through the cervical canal and into the uterus. The sperm is sustained on its journey with the help of glands and mucus within the cervix that acts like a reservoir which releases the sperm into the uterus gradually over a period of several days. The woman's egg, once released from the ovary, has a short 24-hour period during which it can become fertilized. Insemination, therefore, must be timed to coincide with the release of the egg. It becomes necessary to monitor ovulation very carefully in order to time the insemination properly.

During intrauterine insemination sperm are released into the uterus. However, they do not remain viable for a lengthy period since the sperm used in this process is washed and, unlike normal sperm which has longevity of up to five days in cervical mucus, it will live for no more than a maximum of 24 hours. The norm is between six and 12 hours for washed sperm to survive which means that the IUI must be performed as close as possible to the time of ovulation.

Using Drugs To Trigger Ovulation

In order to match the timing of the insemination and ovulation, an ovulation predictor can be used. This type of kit measures the time of the LH (luteinizing hormone) surge which is the precursor which triggers ovulation. This surge happens naturally between 12 and 24 hours before the release of the egg. A urine test in the morning can indicate the release of the hormone and if the test is positive, IUI will be done the following day. A second method used is by artificially triggering ovulation using an injection of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). An ultrasound indicates when an egg or eggs, which are developing within the ovaries, are mature enough to be released. The woman self-injects the hCG and within 36 hours ovulation occurs. The hCG trigger is administered at night and the IUI is performed two mornings later.

And, This Is How It's Done

When the timing is right, the woman will undergo insemination in the doctor's office. The process is similar to having a pap smear in terms of preparation and the insertion of a speculum. Washed sperm is drawn into a catheter which is attached to a syringe and the tip of the catheter is threaded through the vagina and cervix into the uterus. The sperm is pushed out of the syringe, through the catheter and into the uterus where, hopefully, it will make its way to the waiting egg. The entire process takes about 10 minutes and after a brief rest after the insemination, the woman is able to get up, get dressed and carry on with her day.


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