Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a common fertility treatment procedure. Women in same sex relationships who are looking to start a family often turn to IUI as an option.
In this procedure, specially washed and sorted sperm cells, either from the male partner or a sperm donor, are placed through a catheter. They are inserted directly into the uterus.
This treatment offers several benefits. It places a large number of concentrated sperm cells directly into the uterus. This makes it much easier for them to reach the fallopian tubes and the egg, which increases the chance of fertilization. It also helps the sperm bypass the cervical mucus, making it easier to get to the egg.
IUI is typically done around the time of ovulation. Some doctors will give you medication to help you ovulate, while others will work with your own natural cycle. This will depend on your medical history and the results of your fertility workup.
What to Expect During an IUI
Your doctor will tell you when to arrive at the clinic for your procedure. If your partner is producing sperm, he may be asked to arrive up to a few hours before your appointment for the collection.
Sometimes, he may be allowed to collect at home and bring the sperm to the office in a special container. Ask your doctor for further instructions about this.
When you arrive at the office, you’ll be brought into an exam room and asked to undress from the waist down. The staff should give you a drape to place over your lap.
The nurse or medical assistant will bring the sperm into the exam room and ask you to verify the name and date of birth on the sample. This ensures that the correct sperm are being used for the insemination. The staff may review your consent forms if they haven’t been signed yet.
When the doctor comes in, they’ll again verify your name and the name on the sperm sample. They’ll draw up the sperm sample into a small syringe and attach a thin catheter to the end of the syringe. The doctor will then insert a speculum into the vagina to visualize your cervix.
Next, they’ll use giant cotton swabs to gently cleanse extra mucus from the cervix. The doctor will then insert the catheter through the cervix and into the uterus. Once in place, the plunger of the syringe will be depressed to push the sperm into the uterus.
The doctor will then remove the catheter and speculum. They’ll allow you to rest for 10 to 20 minutes.
After Your IUI
Your doctor will give you specific instructions for what to expect after your IUI.
You’ll probably be able to go back to work if needed after the procedure, but you should double check with your doctor.
Causes of Cramping After IUI
Many women experience cramping during or after an IUI. This is very common, and can be caused by the following:
- Cramping during the IUI usually happens as the catheter is being passed through the cervix, and while the sperm is being injected. This cramp is usually pretty short-lived. It should go away as soon as the doctor removes the catheter.
- Some women experience cramping after IUI. The catheter can sometimes irritate the uterus, which can cause mild cramping, too.
- Ovulation can also cause abdominal cramping. If you’re ovulating multiple follicles, usually from taking medication to induce ovulation, this may worsen ovulation pain or cramping.
- Cramping a few days after the IUI can sometimes signal implantation, or it can signal that your body’s getting ready for your period. It doesn't mean that you definitely are, or aren’t, pregnant.
In most cases, cramping after an IUI isn’t too painful. Taking Tylenol is usually the preferred pain reliever because it’s pregnancy-safe. You should also rest as much as you can.
Contact your doctor if your cramping is severe or accompanied by other symptoms like fever or abnormal vaginal discharge.