Saturday, January 15, 2011
Norwegian Patient With Arcuate Uterus & PCOS Wants To Know: Is IUI A Good Option?
Hi, I wrote before. I have an arcuate uterus and polycystic ovaries. My hormonal results were fine as well as my test for cervical cancer. My husband and I have decided to go for artificial insemination since we have been trying to have a baby for 4 years. I have never gotten pregnant. My question will I qualify for that and what does the whole process involve? Is it less expensive than in-vitro? Thank you, N. from Norway
Hello N. from Norway,
IUI (intrauterine insemination) is certainly an option for you, especially if you have been found to be completely normal except for ovulation, the polycystic ovarian syndrome. (As far as the "arcuate" configuration to your uterus, this is generally considered a normal variant and does NOT cause infertility, do not be concerned with that.) Because IUI is a "natural" treatment method, meaning your body has to go through all its natural steps to achieve pregnancy, each of these natural steps have to work properly to get pregnant. Therefore, it can take several IUI attempts to achieve pregnancy, just as it would take several months of trying normally for a regular couple. The pregnancy rates are age dependent and range from 3%-24%. The maximum pregnancy rate is 24% in a woman under the age of 30. It decreases from there due to age factors.
The basic problem with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is that the ovary does not function correctly and therefore does not ovulate on a regular basis. Therefore, any infertility treatment that you do will require that you take fertility medications in order to induce the ovaries to ovulate. With IUI the goal is to get you to ovulate three eggs per month (that is what increases the pregnancy chances). Ultrasound is then used to gauge your progess and time when the insemination should be performed. Basically, when the ovulatory follicles reach appropriate ovulatory size (18-24 mms), then a trigger such as HCG is given to trigger ovulation. I do two IUI's at 24 and 48 hrs from trigger but some clinics will only do 1 IUI at 32-26 hrs. There are pros and cons of each and I believe that two IUI's are better despite the fact that studies have shown that they are equivalent (I'm not sure that the studies were good enought to show a difference). IUI cost tends to be much much less than IVF because there is less technology used. If you don't achieve pregnancy by four attempts, then the pregnancy rates decrease dramatically so it is recommended to proceed to IVF from there.
One of the difficulties with PCOS patients is that there ovaries are very difficult to stimulate, so that many (80-85%) end up proceeding to IVF. With the simple meds such as Clomiphene or Letrozole, many PCOS patients do not stimulate at all despite the highest dosages, whereas, with the injectables (gonal-f, Follistim, Bravelle, Menopur), they tend to stimulate too much and produce too many eggs necessitating cancellation of the cycle. With natural treatments like IUI we don't allow more than three ovulatory sized follicles because we cannot control how many get to the uterus, which would increase the risk of a super-multiple such as 5, 6 or 8 implanting. This is a situation you most certainly would want to avoid!
I hope this gives you the information that you desired. Thank you for writing me from Norway!
Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program
Monterey, California, U.S.A.