Does IUI Carry Risks?
The process of intrauterine insemination (IUI) is considered to be among the least invasive of the various assisted reproductive techniques (ART). Because of its noninvasive nature, IUI causes few risks. Those complications that do arise are most often about the ovulatory stimulation drugs taken prior to the IUI procedure, and not from the IUI procedure itself.
It's important to note that the nature of fertility treatments, whether they include drugs or surgery is that they necessitate careful monitoring. When patients are well-monitored, the chances for side effects are much diminished. As for IUI, some patients do very well using IUI in tandem with the normal menstrual cycle; at the time that ovulation is predicted. If you go this route, you eliminate the possible side effects from fertility drugs.
In IUI, a thin catheter is threaded through the woman's cervix and on into her uterus. This catheter then serves as a vehicle for transporting sperm straight into the uterine cavity. The procedure will cause most women some mild pain, but the main risk from IUI is minor injury to the woman's cervix which may cause pain and cramping or even some spotting and bleeding after the procedure. This is normal and no cause for concern. Your physician will likely advise you to rest for half an hour after performing the procedure. During this time, you can speak to him about your concerns.
One risk posed by IUI is the possible exposure to infection that might be harbored by the sperm used in the procedure. Such infections would include those that are sexually transmitted (STD's). Such exposure is very unlikely at reputable clinics since the sperm is washed prior to IUI. In the case where the sperm donor is anonymous, the clinics wash, test, freeze, quarantine for 6 months, thaw, and then retest before the sperm is used in the IUI procedure. It would be very difficult for bacteria to escape detection throughout this time.
As for the risks associated with ovulation-stimulating drugs like Clomid (Clomiphene Citrate), for instance, the main worry is hyperstimulation ovarian syndrome. In this condition, too many egg follicles develop in the ovaries at once. This activity escalates estrogen levels which can cause enlarged ovaries, abdominal swelling and pain, nausea and vomiting, and difficulties with breathing.
When hyperstimulation is severe, it can even be life-threatening. This condition is seen in women who use hCH (gonadotropin therapy) and less frequently, in those who take Clomid. When the condition occurs in women who use Clomid, it is usually in those women who suffer from PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).