Today, C. and I went in to the clinic to get this turkey basted (that is, for intrauterine insemination or IUI). Here’s what was involved:
- C. prepared his sample right before we left for the clinic, then kept it warm in his pocket during our drive. (It takes a half hour for it to ‘liquefy’ prior to washing.)
- We arrived at the clinic and waited. This part was long enough to stress us out a bit, since the specimen is supposed to be processed within an hour.
- Once in the back, we handed over the sample to the nurse and signed a form stating that it was indeed from C.
- We waited again, this time for the doctor (Dr. H.) to ‘wash’ the sperm. More about that in a minute…
- Dr. H. came in, and confirmed again that the sample was indeed from C. (After being asked again, we started to actually worry! What if our sample got mixed up with one of the people in the waiting room?…) She complemented C. on his excellent sample. (She counted 78 million sperm per milliliter upon arrival, and 30 million ‘good swimmers’ that made it through the washing procedure and to the final sample. This raised our confidence that they were actually C.’s! 😉 ) Then she explained what was going to happen.
- The next part started like a pap smear: me in stirrups, mildly uncomfortable; doctor inserted speculum then swabbed my cervix with a big Q-tip… Then out came the turkey baster! (Actually it looked more like a syringe with a little tube…)
- After the basting was done, Dr. H. tilted the bed back and left me there for ~30 minutes to let gravity help the little guys along.
- She reiterated the advice to BD tomorrow, just to be sure. And that was it!
The whole thing really wasn’t bad! No cramping at all. (Dr. H. told me I have a ‘quiet uterus’. I guess that makes sense; they’ve had two geriatric ovaries for neighbors this whole time…)
The sperm washing part was interesting to me, since it involves organic chemistry. 🙂 So, why wash sperm?
Aside from the high quality ‘Michael Phelps’ sperm cells, semen also contains slower-moving or dysfunctional sperm, prostaglandins, and bacteria (ew!) The cervix normally acts as a natural ‘qualifying round’ to keep out everybody except those super-swimmers. Since IUI bypasses the cervix, another gatekeeper is needed – hence the sperm ‘washing’.
Here’s the chemical structure of the two major prostaglandins in semen. Prostaglandins are made from fatty acids (hence the long chains on the right side), and always have a five-membered ring.
Prostaglandins stimulate muscle contractions, which might be good when you’re trying to help sperm get into the uterus (or if you’re 42 weeks pregnant and trying to induce labor – not exactly something I’ve had to worry about…), but if inserted directly into the uterus, the prostaglandins can cause severe cramping, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea. Not so nice.
The next step for me is a progesterone blood test on Wednesday, followed by progesterone suppositories to support a pregnancy (in case there is one!)
Ever the pessimists, we also scheduled an IVF consultation with Dr. Y. so that we have a clear idea of our options if this doesn’t work. Hopefully we won’t need it!