Slowly Does It!
If you are trying to get pregnant using artificial reproductive techniques (ART), a new method of IUI has been developed which is more effective than conventional IUI. This new method closely imitates nature by allowing sperm to be released into the womb more slowly.
Cervix As Gatekeeper
Normally if you are trying for a baby the regular way, the cervix acts as a gatekeeper preventing too many sperm from being able to race towards the egg at the same time. This is important because if too many sperm inundate the egg at once, the egg shuts down and prevents any of the sperm from penetrating it. This is why the cervix usually releases the sperm into the womb in small groups over a period of a few hours enabling only so many sperm to reach the egg at any one time.
In conventional IUI the sperm are normally released into the womb all at once. This can mean that the IUI attempt fails because the egg is overwhelmed by too many sperm at the same time. Researchers have been looking into ways to solve this problem and have come up with a new slow release pump that allows the sperm to be released into the womb over a few hours.
This new device called the 'Evie' developed by Fertiligent, a medical start-up, is produced by the British company Reproductive Sciences Limited based in Warrington. The 'Evie' aroused a lot of interest when it was presented in the summer of 2010 to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology Conference held in Rome and has both European (CE) and American (FDA) approval.
How It Works
The device itself is quite simple. It consists of a catheter inserted into your womb, a pump with its own timer, an insemination syringe containing the sperm and a strap that attaches the device to your thigh. The doctor inserts the device, presses the go button, and then you can leave the clinic and go about your normal activities within reason. You will be able to try to relax and perhaps watch a comedy to take your mind off what's happening!
After four hours, you press the stop button, which injects any remaining sperm into your womb and then you can remove the device yourself and throw it away. The device also ensures that there is no leakage of those precious sperm, and by enabling the sperm to reach the egg more slowly, the 'window of opportunity' is increased. This extra time gives you a better chance of getting pregnant.
Trials held in the UK, Germany and Israel show that this device approximately doubles the success rate of conventional IUI, making it comparable to IVF treatment. As IVF is so much more invasive, not to mention much more expensive, this IUI method offers another option to couples needing ART.
Many doctors prefer to offer a less invasive method first but up to now IUI has had low success rates. Many couples, especially those receiving NHS treatment with its limited number of funded cycles, have therefore opted for the more successful IVF in the hope that they will achieve a pregnancy. As the 'Evie' seems to be as effective as IVF and much cheaper, this may mean that when this method becomes available in your Primary Care Trust (PCT) area you may have more chance of receiving funding from the NHS. If you are having private fertility treatment, discuss this option with your specialist.