What an IUI Cycle is REALLY Like

Starting IUI (Interauterine Insemination) can be difficult. You don’t always know what to expect—from the procedures to the costs and side effects. To help show what an IUI cycle looks like, I invite you to join me for the trials and tribulations through my personal, day-by-day diary.

About the Cycle

My challenges with infertility began almost seven years ago. I’ve had a miscarriage, surgery for severe endometriosis, and I’ve taken clomid and letrozole so many times I’ve lost count. Each time I took the medication, I swore I’d never take it again because of how it made me feel. But one of those medicated cycles gave me my son, so there’s a little part of me that believes it could work again. And, occasionally I give it another go. 

IUI is much more expensive than getting clomid or letrozole from your OBGYN, and my insurance only covers a small percentage. I get paid by the hour, so each hour I miss because of the treatment means lost income as well. The total cost for the month adds up to approximately $800 out of pocket.

Cycle Days 1-4

I call my doctor and tell him I want to start IUI this month. I completed all the preliminary testing months earlier. (I could write an entire separate article on these invasive, high cost, procedures.)

Cycle Day 5

I go in for an ultrasound to examine my ovaries and ensure everything is ready to go. I had to hire a babysitter to take care of my son so I could make it to the appointment, which adds to my total out-of-pocket costs.

I pick up the prescription from the pharmacy and leave it on the counter. I detest the medication, and hate seeing the bottle sitting there with my five doses. I prefer to take clomid and letrozole at night because I find I feel the strangest in the hours immediately following a dose. I take the first dose and have trouble falling asleep.

Cycle Day 6

For me, the first day on clomid is always the hardest. I wake up with a headache, my eyes are sunken, my face is pale and flushed. I feel foggy, slow, and emotional. I drop my son off at school and almost burst into tears. I go to work and try to focus, which is difficult. I have to remind myself to eat, because clomid typically kills my appetite, but I always feel a little bit better after a meal.

While I’m at work, a pharmacist calls with information about the shot I’ll inject myself with next week. They will mail it to my house. I struggle to make it through the day. After work, I go home and crash. I let my son watch TV all afternoon, and we get fast food instead of cooking like we usually do. As I get ready for bed and take the second dose, I wonder if it’s worth it.

Cycle Day 7

I wake up dragging, and have a headache. I have hot flashes throughout the day. The shot arrives in the mail, and my husband and I have a good laugh about the name and the packaging. The shot is called Pregnyl, which sounds to me like preg-nil… as in pregnant-no, as in, girl you know you can’t get pregnant. 

Cycle Days 8-9

The last two days of taking clomid are bearable. I still struggle to sleep, have no appetite, feel foggy, and have headaches and hot flashes. We have people over and, instead of staying up to have a drink, I go to bed early because I know that alcohol can make me feel worse. I feel sad to miss out on the fun.

Cycle Days 10-13

During the days following the last dose of clomid, I feel elated. I am so very happy that the round of medication is over that I suddenly have more energy and am generally in a great mood.

Cycle Day 14

I return to the doctor’s office for another ultrasound to look for developing follicles on my ovaries. I have two eggs that will be ready to be triggered. I leave the appointment feeling optimistic.

Cycle Day 15

The night of cycle day 15, we stay up late. We were told to do the injection at 11 p.m. My husband helps me give myself the preg-nyl injection, which is a shot given in the belly. This is the second time this month I seriously ask myself why I continue to put my body, my mind, and my marriage through this ordeal.

Cycle Day 16

The day after the injection, I’m tired, extremely irritable, and anxious. I don’t feel like myself, and I’m sore at the injection site.

Cycle Day 17

Related imageOn the day of the insemination, my husband and I argue because it is difficult for him to leave work. He works in the medical field, and the narrow one-hour window they gave him is almost impossible to meet.

Later that morning, I go to the doctor’s office alone for the insemination. The doctor is not there for the appointment. After a nurse calls me back, I undress and lay on the exam table just as I would for a pap smear. I’ve been asked to arrive with a full bladder, so I’m a tad uncomfortable. Nurse 1 holds an ultrasound wand over my belly while nurse 2 inserts a thin catheter into my cervix and pushes my husband’s sample through the catheter directly into my uterus.

As I leave the office, I feel a little sad. In some ways, I want the day to feel special, but I’m also very guarded because I know I may have to do this all again. I return to work and feel very uncomfortable, my lower abdomen is aching and cramping, which keeps me distracted.

Cycle Days 18-30

Surprisingly, the notorious two-week wait is not as difficult for me this time around. The weeks following the insemination coincide with the ramp up to the holidays, so I am very distracted – in a good way. The preg-nyl shot can give a false positive so I know better than to test early, and this also helps alleviate some of the anticipation.

Cycle Day 31

The day I am supposed to test lands on… wait for it… Christmas Day. Yes, Christmas Day. I think to myself, at least if the test is negative, I’ll have the distraction of holiday celebrations to take my mind off it. I wake up before my husband and son on Christmas morning to take a test.

It’s negative. I’m crushed. A few hours later, after we’ve opened presents, I break down. I cry and cry. All the hope and optimism I had throughout the month, the hassle of arranging to get to appointments, the stress of the medications and procedures, and all the years of infertility and disappointment come crashing down on me.

Cycle Day 32

I start my period early in the morning. I call the doctor to let them know, and they call in a prescription for another round of clomid. I’ll start taking the pill on cycle day 3 this time, so I only have two days before the IUI month starts over. My husband and I talk about if this is what we really want: the cost, time commitment, stress. In some ways we’re already in it, so it’s just easier to continue. I feel sad, run-down, and resolved.

I go back to the trenches. Even if I never get pregnant through IUI, at least I’ll know I tried my hardest each step of the way. 

Have you had an IUI experience similar to mine? I’d love to hear your story.

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