Intrauterine insemination (IUI) has earned its reputation as the least invasive of the artificial reproductive techniques (ART). Many couples, who couldn't conceive on their own, are given fertility drugs as the first line of treatment. In some cases, fertility medication is tried along with IUI and it has had a great deal of success in such cases.
IUI necessitates careful timing with ovulation; more so than with conception sex. This is due to the fact that during sex, sperm journey through the cervix where the fertile cervical mucus helps to preserve the life of the sperm over several days. The sperm are held in a sort of reservoir that affords the gradual release of the sperm into the uterus. These brilliant feats of nature ensure that the sperm remain viable for a longer period of time and can still fertilize the egg up to five days after sex.
But in IUI, the sperm is washed before the procedure. The washing procedure makes the sperm safe for insemination while shortening its lifespan. Also, the sperm is injected straight into the uterus without any contact with the fertile cervical mucus or with the aid of the slow release from the natural reservoir. Washed sperm last, at most, 24 hours, though 6-12 hours is average. Injecting the sperm as close as possible to ovulation improves a woman's chances of conception.
IUI doesn't take very long and is a simple procedure. The physician places washed sperm into a catheter attached to a syringe. The catheter is threaded into the cervix and on through to the uterus. The doctor pushes the plunger on the syringe so that the sperm enters the catheter and on through to the uterus. Not too many minutes later, a woman can get up and go home.
Once in a while, the doctor finds it difficult to insert the catheter into the uterus. Though rare, doctors do have a few methods for remedying this situation. The catheter that is in common use for IUI is soft, droopy, and flexible, which enables it to be manipulated through the cervix. But when insertion is difficult, another catheter is substituted. This special catheter contains a flexible wire that can be bent into the shape necessary for ease of insertion. In most cases, this is all that is needed so that the IUI procedure can be continued.
Sometimes the physician must use an instrument known as a tenaculum to hold the cervix. The tenaculum can help to pull on the cervix to straighten the angle of the line from the cervix to the uterus. Once this pathway is straightened, the catheter can be threaded on through to the uterus. Another, instrument-free way of straightening this path is with a full bladder.