Using Ovulation Tests (aka OPKs) for IUI
The most accurate way to time insemination using home monitoring is by ovulation tests. Because fertility treatments are not often covered by insurance, OPKs are a low-cost option to help you and your physician determine the optimal timing for an IUI procedure.
IUI (intrauterine insemination) is a procedure in which concentrated sperm is placed into the uterine cavity at the time of ovulation. It is usually a quick, safe, and painless procedure that involves placing a speculum to visualize the cervix, and then inserting a small catheter through the cervical canal into the upper uterus, where the sperm can swim into the fallopian tube and find the ovulated egg. This procedure can be performed by a physician (fertility specialist or OBGYN) or a mid-level provider (ie. nurse practitioner or physician assistant). Learn more in The Scoop on IUI.
Timing of IUI is critical
Once a mature egg is released from the ovary, the egg must be fertilized within about 24 hours for pregnancy to occur. To pinpoint this timing, your physician will either use ultrasound monitoring at the clinic or will have you use Ovulation Predictor Kits at home. Monitoring at home through Ovulation Predictor Kits can save time and money -- a pack of 30 ovulation tests costs just $21 compared to hundreds for an ultrasound. And one study of 719 patients showed both methods had similar pregnancy rates.
The most accurate way to time insemination using home monitoring is by ovulation tests, aka Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs).
The most accurate way to time an insemination using home monitoring is with ovulation tests. Because fertility treatments are not often covered by insurance, ovulation tests or OPKs are a low-cost option to help you and your physician determine the optimal timing for an IUI procedure (12-36 hours after positive result).
You might be wondering—when during the day are you most likely to get your positive result? This study found that people most often got their positive test results at lunch-time, between 11 am and 3 pm.
The trigger shot
Your doctor can also precisely control when an egg is matured by using what is informally called a “trigger-shot” that induces an egg to mature and ovulate within 24-36 hours. The trigger shot is usually composed of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is structurally similar enough to luteinizing hormone (LH), the hormone that induces eggs to mature and ovulate, that your body reacts the same way hCG as it would to LH. This option usually involves blood-work and ultrasounds and can be more financially burdensome for those that are self-paying for fertility treatments.
Timing insemination - fresh vs frozen sperm
If the procedure is using frozen sperm (say, from a donor), it is especially important to time the introduction of sperm as close as possible to ovulation. That is because sperm that has been frozen is estimated to live in a woman's body for at most 24 hours. Because of this some physicians recommend doing an insemination the day your OPK is first positive and again the following day in order to maximize the chances of sperm arriving in the vicinity of the egg when it is released.
How to use Ovulation Predictor Kits
After you follow the test instructions, pee into the cup, and place cup on a flat surface, dip the test into the cup of urine for 20 seconds, and wait five minutes for results. take a look at the test window. To determine your result, you must compare the color intensity of the test line to the control line.
As your cycle progresses and you test daily (or twice daily), the darkness of the test line will increase; this indicates that your LH levels are increasing, and you are approaching your LH surge. When it is as dark or darker than the control line, you are experiencing your LH surge, and you will likely ovulate within 24-48 hours. Use the included cycle tracker to monitor LH progression.
You’ll want to be sure your test is 100% positive before you inseminate. If your test line is almost as dark as the reference line, but not quite, it is not yet a positive result.
Check out The Ovulation Test Cheat Sheet.
Recommended ovulation tests for IUI
The Natalist Ovulation Tests are recommended for women undergoing IUI because they are easy to use and reliable (over 99% accurate).