Part Of The Process Of IUI

When Fertility Drugs Aren't Enough

The journey to parenthood can sometimes be fraught with challenges and obstacles, some of which are easier than others to overcome. If pregnancy can be achieved with the use of ovulatory stimulation drugs, then the trip is shortened and a bit easier. If, however, drugs are not the answer, then the next step is usually intrauterine insemination (IUI) which is less invasive than IVF and often very successful.

There is more to the process than meets the eye when it comes to IUI. The procedure is much more than just performing artificial insemination. Timing is critical-both the timing of ovulation and the timing of sperm collection and washing affect the success of the procedure.

The Process Of Collecting The Sperm

It is not necessary for a man to abstain from intercourse prior to IUI, although some clinics recommend there be 72 hours abstinence prior to collection. Sperm counts vary in men and the frequency of ejaculation does not reflect upon sperm numbers. About an hour before the IUI procedure is performed on the woman, the man provides a semen sample through ejaculation into a sterile container. This can be done at home, if the couple lives close enough, or at the clinic where usually there is a private space allotted for that purpose. The sperm will liquefy shortly after ejaculation and in time for preparation for the IUI. Preparation of the sperm includes the separation of semen and sperm and the washing of the sperm before it is placed in the woman's uterus. This allows for a better chance for the sperm's survival and for fertilization to occur.

Separating The Wheat From The Chaff, Or, In This Case, The Sperm From The Fluid

Ejaculate is comprised of two parts, seminal fluid and sperm. The variety of chemicals found in seminal fluid can be problematic for fertilization and so the seminal fluid must be separated from the sperm. Prostaglandins, responsible for many different body functions, can make a woman very sick if they are injected directly into the uterus. If, at the time of the IUI, seminal fluid is injected along with the sperm, a woman may experience nausea, vomiting, cramping, fever and diarrhea. The symptoms appear within minutes of having had the IUI performed.

Types Of Washing Processes To Increase The Odds

To separate the sperm from the seminal fluid, a process of washing is performed. The process protects the woman from problems and also increases the chances of pregnancy. The most basic sperm washing is the diluting of the semen in a test tube with a special solution of protein supplements and antibiotics. It is then placed in a centrifuge and spun until the sperm separates from the liquid. The sperm falls to the bottom on the test tube and are then removed and used in the IUI. The entire process takes between 20 and 40 minutes.

Density gradient washing is another type of process which not only separates the sperm from the fluid, but also removes dead sperm cells, white blood cells and other waste products from the sperm. Liquids of varying densities are placed in a test tube with the sperm on the top layer. The tube is put into the centrifuge and spun. The healthy sperm make their way to the bottom of the test tube and then the top layers are siphoned off, leaving the healthy live sperm to be used for the IUI. This process takes about an hour to perform.


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