Written by Dr. Lauren Sundheimer, a board certified reproductive endocrinologist at CCRM Fertility of Newport Beach
How to Increase Your Odds of IUI Success
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a fertility treatment where sperm are “washed” in a special solution and the concentrated sperm are then placed directly into the uterus with a catheter (thin tube). Since IUI is more affordable and less invasive than in vitro fertilization (IVF), it is often the first course of fertility treatment most patients would like to explore to grow their families.
Tips for before your IUI
Avoid strenuous exercise
Between days 3 through 5 of your menstrual cycle, many women will take medications to stimulate your ovaries to grow eggs. Your ovaries enlarge during this time due to the hormones and this can cause you to feel bloated or have some pain in your pelvis. While you want to continue regular exercise, it’s better to stick to lower impact, less strenuous exercises. Below are a few examples of exercises you can do while preparing for IUI.
- Yoga & Meditation: Yoga is a go-to for both the physical and mental wellness of many patients. The poses and stretches help improve flexibility and circulation, especially around the pelvic area, while the meditative aspects alleviate the stress and anxiety that sometimes come with fertility treatments.
- Tai Chi: This ancient Chinese practice, often described as “meditation in motion,” is perfect for both physical and mental well-being. It focuses on slow, deliberate movements paired with deep breathing, promoting relaxation and balance.
- Swimming: Swimming has been a refreshing way to maintain cardiovascular health without putting too much strain on the body It’s a full-body workout that’s also relaxing. The rhythmic nature of swimming laps provides the patient with a sense of calm, and the buoyancy of the water is gentle on the body.
- Regular Walks: I’ve made it a routine to take brisk walks, especially after meals. These walks not only aid digestion but also ensure consistent blood flow and help keep your weight in check. It’s a low-impact way to stay active, and it can provide you with some quiet reflection time.
- Cycling: On days when the weather’s good, I enjoy going for a bike ride. It’s low-impact, gets your heart rate up, and allows you to enjoy the outdoors, ensuring both physical activity and a mental refresh.
- Pilates: Pilates focuses on core strength, flexibility, and balance. The exercises are low-impact, making them gentle on the joints, and they can also help with pelvic floor strength, which is essential for conception and pregnancy.
- Dance Aerobics: Whether it’s a Zumba class or just dancing around the living room to your favorite tunes, dance aerobics are both fun and a great way to get your heart rate up. It also can help boost your mood and allow you to release any pent-up tension.
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains can go a long way in optimizing your body for pregnancy. You’ll want to avoid alcohol and limit your caffeine intake (200 mg daily is okay). There are also vitamins and supplements you can take to improve your odds of success, in addition to a prenatal vitamin, like Omega-3 fatty acids.
Make sure to bring a list of questions to ask your fertility specialist at your consult. It’s important to understand the medications you’re taking and how to use them, any activity restrictions, and how the procedure is going to work. Here are a few questions to get you started brainstorming what you’d like to ask:
- “Based on my medical history and our year of trying, what are the chances that an IUI procedure will be successful for us?”
- “Are there any specific medications or treatments I should consider in conjunction with the IUI to increase our chances of success?”
- “What kind of monitoring or tests will I undergo before the IUI? I want to understand the entire process leading up to the procedure.”
- “Are there any potential risks or side effects associated with IUI that I should be aware of?”
- “After the IUI, are there specific signs or symptoms I should look out for, and when would be the earliest I can take a pregnancy test to check for a successful implantation?”
Know what to expect before your IUI
- Initial Evaluation: The IUI journey begins with an evaluation, fertility testing, and the creation of a treatment plan tailored for you.
- Medication to Stimulate Ovulation: If your doctor prescribes, you’ll start these between days 3-5 of your menstrual cycle to encourage ovulation.
- Monitoring Appointment: Around day 10 of your cycle, return to CCRM for an ultrasound, and possibly blood work, to monitor follicle development, size, and your proximity to ovulation.
Tips for the day of your IUI procedure
Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully
Prior to your IUI, you’ll receive instructions on how to prepare for the procedure. Many fertility doctors want you to come in with a full bladder and will let you know how much water you need to drink beforehand. You’ll also coordinate with your male partner if you’re using a fresh semen sample.
Know what to expect heading into your IUI appointment:
- Ovulation Detection: You may be guided to use at-home urine tests to detect ovulation. Once detected, call your nurse for further steps.
- Ovulation Induction: If needed, you might be asked to take a trigger shot to induce ovulation.
- IUI Procedure: 1-2 days post-trigger shot, you’ll return to CCRM. The male partner provides a semen sample an hour before the procedure, or previously frozen sperm is used. This sperm undergoes a special wash to separate and concentrate the fastest swimmers.
- Intrauterine Injection: The selected sperm are loaded into a catheter and gently introduced into the uterus. This step is usually painless, akin to the sensation of a pap smear.
Don’t worry about gravity
While the myth that you should raise your legs/hips in the air after intercourse of IUI continues to perpetuate, the science tells us otherwise. Sperm is placed right into your uterus for the insemination and since sperm do not rely on gravity, there is no concern that sperm will trickle out when you stand up and walk around.
Know when to call your doctor
While you shouldn’t focus on leaking sperm, you do need to know what to look for after your IUI for signs to call your doctor. It’s normal to feel bloating and cramping, breast soreness, fatigue, light spotting, and pelvic discomfort. But if you’re experiencing blurred vision, severe pelvic pain, sudden weight gain of 5 pounds or more, or feeling short of breath, don’t hesitate to call your doctor.
Tips for after your IUI
You’ll come back to the fertility specialist’s office for a blood test to determine if the procedure was successful between 9 & 14 days after the IUI. That waiting period before your pregnancy test can feel incredibly daunting. Take time to focus on yourself by talking to a therapist, spending time with your partner, getting a massage, or journaling. Do activities that you enjoy or calm your mind. Though hotly debated, recent studies have shown that anxiety affects the fertilization rate and embryo availability (for IVF patients).
Avoid hot baths
You’ll want to skip hot baths, hot tubs, and saunas until you get cleared by your doctor. Heat can interfere with the implantation process, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.
Manage your expectations
As with other fertility treatments, there’s a chance your IUI won’t work. Staying positive can help many people get through the wait, but know if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean future IUIs won’t. It also doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.
If you’re interested in using IUI to get pregnant, contact us to schedule a new patient consultation with a CCRM Fertility specialist.
Who benefits from IUI?
- Couples with no known cause of infertility
- Couples with mild to moderate decreased semen quality
- Women with ovulatory disorders who respond well to fertility medication
- Women with mild endometriosis
- Same-sex couples using donor sperm
- Single women using donor sperm
When is IUI not recommended?
IUI is not recommended in the following instances:
- Women with moderate or severe endometriosis
- Women with fallopian tubes that are severely damaged or blocked
- Women with a history of pelvic infections or pelvic scar tissue
- Men who don’t produce sperm or have a very low count
How successful IUI is for you depends on your age, your fertility diagnosis, and how long you’ve been trying to conceive. While there’s no silver bullet to help you become pregnant after IUI, there are steps you can take before, during, and after your IUI to give you the best chances of success.