For people trying to become parents, the road to pregnancy is always longer than you hope. Even if you’re one of the lucky few who gets pregnant on the first try, the two-week wait can be agonizing. For couples with fertility issues, that two-week wait can turn into a one-year wait that takes you through many emotional highs and lows and medical twist and turns.
A fertility specialist is your best ally in the fight against infertility, so don’t hesitate to seek help if you need it. For many couples, intrauterine insemination (IUI) offers an excellent shot at a healthy pregnancy. But what can you expect after IUI, what are the common symptoms, and how will you know if you’re pregnant? Here’s what you need to know.
Is IUI Right for You?
People considering infertility treatment often weigh treatment options before consulting with a fertility specialist. Before committing to IUI, you need to meet with a fertility expert for a comprehensive fertility workup and evaluation of your options. Only a doctor can tell you whether IUI is a viable option.
IUI may be the right choice for you if:
- There are issues with the man’s sperm.
- The man is unable to get an erection or ejaculate into his partner.
- The couple has unexplained infertility.
- A woman is trying to get pregnant from donor sperm, without a partner.
- There is a history of ovulation issues. IUI will not treat ovulation issues. IUI does, however, allow a doctor to pinpoint the exact moment of ovulation and time insemination for the most fertile window.
Many women choose to take fertility drugs before IUI. This can enhance the chances of success, particularly in women who do not ovulate regularly or who have hormonal imbalances that undermine fertility.
IUI Success Rate: How Well Does IUI Work?
To put IUI success rates in context, it’s important first to look at success rates associated with trying to get pregnant the “old-fashioned” way. For most healthy fertile couples, the odds of a successful pregnancy are about 20% each month. From that 12 -15% of couples will try for a year and 10% for two years without conceiving.
Estimated IUI success rates range from 8-30% per cycle -- a figure much higher than you’d achieve on your own. Individual factors such as age, health, and lifestyle can prominently effect these odds.
At the Center of Reproductive Medicine, in Houston, Texas, we carefully screen IUI candidates, craft a comprehensive treatment plan, and ensure IUI is the best and safest option for you to achieve a healthy pregnancy.
With IUI, a doctor pinpoints the exact moment of ovulation, and times fertilization accordingly. There’s no hoping that you’re timing intercourse correctly, ovulation tests, or temperature-taking. Instead, you simply work with your doctor to determine the appropriate time for the procedure, and your doctor takes care of the rest. This impeccable timing is a key factor in IUI’s success.
Implantation After IUI: What You Need to Know
During IUI, a doctor deposits sperm directly into the uterus. This can circumvent many fertility issues, making it easier for the sperm to successfully reach an egg. But it’s important to know that pregnancy does not begin at the moment a sperm fertilizes an egg. Medically speaking, implantation is the moment a pregnancy starts.
So what is implantation? Implantation happens when the egg embeds itself in the uterine lining. This triggers a cascade of hormonal and other changes that tell the body it’s pregnant, cause pregnancy symptoms, and help nurture the developing embryo. Your body doesn’t know it’s pregnant until implantation. That means that you can't have pregnancy symptoms until after implantation has happened.
Any symptoms you experience before implantation may be due to:
- Your natural hormone cycles.
- Fertility drugs.
- The IUI procedure.
- Implantation bleeding.
Progesterone levels tend to increase in the second half of a woman’s cycle, after ovulation. Levels continue to rise until the woman’s period. This is why many women experience tender breasts and other symptoms right before their periods. What’s even more frustrating is that many of these symptoms are similar to those of early pregnancy. So you can't judge whether you’re pregnant based on symptoms alone. Moreover, an absence of symptoms does not mean you're not pregnant.
What to Expect Right After IUI
Your doctor will tell you about any activity or other limitations after IUI. You may need to lie down for about 20 minutes after the procedure. In most cases, you can have sex within a day or two, and there’s rarely any reason to avoid exercise or other routines.
However, consider acting as if you are already pregnant. That way, if you do get pregnant, the baby will have the healthiest possible start.
Some important tips include:
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, and illegal drugs.
- Talk to a doctor about any prescription drugs or supplements you take.
- Take a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid.
- Avoid excessive dieting.
- Eat balanced, nutrient-dense, healthy meals.
- Get plenty of protein, since protein is a building block of the baby's brain. Vegetarians may want to drink a protein drink.
In the days following IUI, it is unlikely that you will notice any symptoms because you’re not yet pregnant. Some women report feeling cramping shortly after the procedure, or notice a bit of bleeding from the procedure itself. The cramping and bleeding should go away within a day or two.
Am I Pregnant? Implantation and Beyond
Implantation usually takes place 7-10 days after the sperm fertilizes the egg, but can happen as early as 4-5 days or as late as 10-12 days.
When the egg burrows into the lining of the uterus, some women notice some spotting. This is implantation bleeding and usually goes away after a day or two. Heavy, continuous bleeding may be a sign of your period, or of a problem with early pregnancy. So call your doctor if you notice any unusual bleeding.
After implantation, the body begins rapidly producing larger quantities of HCG, the hormone that helps sustain an early pregnancy.
- Unusual sensations in the stomach. This can range from dull pains to sharp, shooting pain.
- Changes in bowel habits. Such as diarrhea or constipation.
- Intense exhaustion and fatigue.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Food cravings.
- Unusual dreams.
- More frequent urination.
- Changes in vaginal discharge.
Any change from your usual post-ovulation pattern may indicate a pregnancy. For example, if your breasts always get tender two days before your period, and instead either don't get tender at all or get tender much earlier, this could be a sign that you are pregnant. Knowing your body comes in handy when you’re trying to assess signs of pregnancy. So you might want to consider charting your cycles and symptoms for a month or two before trying to get pregnant via IUI.
Early Pregnancy Symptoms and Tips
Your doctor will schedule a pregnancy test around the time that implantation is likely to occur. Because HCG levels remain relatively low early in pregnancy, the most common experience is to experience no symptoms at all. So don’t get demoralized just because you haven’t noticed any pregnancy symptoms.
During your pregnancy test, a doctor will test HCG levels. This provides important information about whether the pregnancy is progressing normally.
So what are some early pregnancy symptoms to monitor for? Some women experience the following:
- Exhaustion and fatigue. You may sleep more than before, or be so tired you have trouble concentrating.
- Morning sickness. This can happen at any time of the day. Most women just feel nauseated or light-headed, but some throw up. Morning sickness is often worse when you are dehydrated or go for several hours without food.
- Muscle weakness, pain, or other changes. Some women notice muscle pain or tension. Others notice that previous muscle pain actually gets better.
- Constipation and bloating. Your bowel movements may become less frequent. The bloating associated with pregnancy can make you look pregnant even before your uterus noticeably grows.
- Unusual food cravings.
- Food and smell aversions. Certain smells or tastes may make you feel nauseated.
- Unusual dreams.
- Changes in your skin. Your skin might be dry, or you might have more breakouts.
Symptoms tend to increase during the first trimester, and then get better during the second trimester, as hormone levels settle down. Your doctor will continue to monitor you during the first trimester of pregnancy, especially if you have a history of pregnancy complications such as miscarriage.
Trying Again: When IUI Fails
Many couples wonder what to do if IUI fails. The good news is that IUI is relatively inexpensive compared to other reproductive technologies, such as IVF. So it’s usually fine to try again.
A single failed IUI cycle does not mean anything about your fertility, just as a single month of failed trying the “natural” way reveals very little. Sometimes things just don’t coordinate exactly right. But if you have several failed cycles, your doctor might recommend trying another approach, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Your doctor will talk to you about next steps. Some factors that you’ll discuss include:
- Your fertility history and diagnosis. Some diagnoses make IUI less likely to succeed.
- The specific reason the IUI failed. Sometimes a doctor is able to find a reason. For instance, maybe you got pregnant but your HCG levels remained too low.
- Your timeline for fertility. Fertility declines with age. If you or your partner are over 40, your doctor might recommend a more aggressive approach, rather than waiting around to see if IUI works next time.
- Your budget. If you are concerned about costs or need time to save, a doctor might recommend another IUI cycle.
- Your specific odds of success. Your fertility specialist should be able to offer clear advise on how likely the next IUI cycle is to succeed.
Know that it’s normal to grieve if IUI fails. After all, you’ve invested time, energy, and resources. Some people feel more hopeless after a failed IUI cycle than they did when they realized they were infertile. Don’t let hopelessness dissuade you from seeking additional treatment. A single failed cycle is painful, but it means nothing about whether or not you can get pregnant. So be gentle with yourself and feel what you feel. But don’t lose hope.
The right fertility specialist for IUI can mean the difference between success and failure. A good fertility doctor listens to your concerns, understands your values, and treats you as the unique person you are. You’re more than just your infertility, and our team understands that. We work with you to get the right diagnosis, to craft a custom treatment plan, and to ensure you become a parent in the fastest, healthiest way possible. We know infertility is painful. We aim to reduce its sting.
When choosing a fertility specialist for IUI, ask lots of questions. Some good starting points include:
- What are my odds of success with no treatment?
- How likely is it that IUI will work for me?
- Which diagnostic tests do you recommend?
- Will we be able to learn anything from an IUI cycle?
- Should I consider another IUI cycle if the first one fails?
We will walk you through the process, address any concerns, and help you feel less alone. We know this is a hard journey. We’re here every step of the way. So don’t delay. Get the fertility help you need and deserve. It all begins with a phone call.