Difficult IUI Procedures

Artificial insemination, or intrauterine insemination as it is currently referred to, is the least invasive of all artificial reproductive techniques. Couples who have difficulty conceiving a pregnancy often rely on drug therapy as their first course of treatment. Often times, along with the drug therapy, IUI is recommended and has proven to be very successful.

When Everything Goes Well, It's a Cakewalk

Timing is more important for IUI than it is for sexual intercourse because, during intercourse, the sperm travel through the cervical canal where there are glands and mucous to sustain the sperm. There is also a reservoir to release the sperm slowly into the uterus over several days. With IUI, the washed sperm is injected directly into the uterus, bypassing the reservoir and slow release. The sperm do not remain viable for any length of time and so must be injected close to the time of ovulation to ensure fertilization.

The actual procedure of IUI is neither lengthy nor complicated. The physician will draw the washed sperm into a catheter which is attached to a syringe. The catheter tip is threaded through the vagina and cervix and into the uterus. The physician pushes the plunger on the syringe which forces the sperm into the catheter and then into the uterus. That's it. The apparatus which is used to keep the vagina open is removed and after a few minutes, the woman can get up and go about her day.

Sometimes Things Don't Go Quite The Way They're Planned

Sometimes there is a problem inserting the catheter into the uterus. The problem doesn't happen often; however, when it does there are a few different ways the situation is remedied.

Catheters are generally very soft and floppy, flexible enough to be manipulated into the cervix. For difficult insertions, there are catheters which have a flexible wire inside which allows the physician to bend it into the correct shape to allow for easier insertion. It also gives a bit more solidity and stiffness to the floppy catheter. Frequently, this is all that is needed to rectify the situation and complete the IUI.

Using Additional Instruments And Ultrasound

In other cases, there is an instrument which can be used to take hold of the cervix. The instrument is called a tenaculum and it is used by the physician to tug on the cervix, straightening the angle between the cervix and the uterus. By straightening the path, it becomes easier for the catheter to pass through to the uterus. A full bladder is another way to straighten the path and doesn't require the use of a tenaculum.

The use of ultrasound to see the pathway is sometimes used when insertion is difficult. The doctor can guide the catheter into the uterine cavity by seeing where it is going.

As a rule, IUI does not cause a great deal of discomfort for a woman. The most frequent complaint is that of cramping and many women say the experience of IUI is like having a pap smear.


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