Sunday, March 18, 2012

This or That?

Since I don't have a lot going on today in my TTC universe, I decided I would address one of the questions I ALWAYS get asked: What is the difference between IUI and IVF?

They are very different. The most basic difference is IUI is non-invasive, and is very similar to a pap smear in terms of the procedure and level of discomfort. IVF on the other hand, is invasive. They retrieve your eggs, fertilize them in a lab, let them grow a few days, and then put them back in your uterus.

Quite honestly, I don't have more than a basic knowledge of IVF. This is largely because there are varying types of IVF that are dependent upon an individuals actual fertility problems. The other thing about IVF is it is VERY expensive ($10,000-50,000 per cycle depending on what you have done, where you live, and what insurance coverage you have).

IUI, on the other hand, I have a very intimate knowledge of.

On the day of an IUI, a semen sample is collected (or defrosted if you have preserved sperm or are using donor sperm) and then washed. What is sperm washing, you ask? Sperm washing has a couple of purposes. It removes chemicals and seminal fluids that may irritate the uterus. It also removes deformed, dying, or dead sperm creating an optimal sample for fertilization. This is accomplished by adding some sperm washing solution and then spinning it repeatedly in a centrifuge until all of the flotsam and jetsam is gone. It usually takes about 45 minutes at our clinic.

After the spermies have had a bath, the lab tech gives me a little vial of clean spermies (in a non-irritating suspension) to put between my boobies to keep nice and warm until its time for the IUI.

When its time for the IUI, I get up on the table and in the stirrups and they load the spermies into a syringe with a catheter on the end:

The RE (or sometimes a nurse or med student) will insert the speculum (AHHHH! Open Wide, LOL!), and then they insert the catheter into the cervix and inject the semen into the uterus. They take out the catheter and the speculum and then you get to lie there for 10 minutes or so. Piece of cake!

Financially, IUI is more reasonable also. Depending on what insurance coverage you have (if any) IUI runs anywhere from $0 (if you have AWESOME coverage) to about $5000 if you have to pay for everything. I have some coverage, so for me an average cycle costs around $300 (not including gas to drive back and forth). We have pretty decent coverage!

The difficulty in any ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology - includes IUI and IVF) procedure lies in the two weeks following the IUI, called the 2WW by IFers, and feared by all of us! It is the longest 2 weeks of ever! Ideally, in that 2 weeks, the egg gets fertilized, travels down the fallopian tubes, floats around in the uterus for a while looking for a nice place to nest, and then implants and starts producing nauseating (literally) levels of HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin AKA- the pregnancy hormone). Implantation takes 6-12 days after fertilization which makes the 2ww even more excruciating. Every twinge, pain, and tweak is over analyzed and Googled extensively. It is how it is.

Anyhow, that's pretty much how it goes. :P