Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a fertility treatment that involves placing sperm inside a woman’s uterus to facilitate fertilization. The goal of IUI is to increase the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes and subsequently increase the chance of fertilization.
IUI provides the sperm an advantage by giving it a head start, but still requires a sperm to reach and fertilize the egg on its own. It is a less invasive and less expensive option compared to in vitro fertilization.
When is IUI used?
The most common reasons for IUI are a low sperm count or decreased sperm mobility.
However, IUI may be selected as a fertility treatment for any of the following conditions as well:
- Unexplained infertility
- A hostile cervical condition, including cervical mucus problems
- Cervical scar tissue from past procedures which may hinder the sperms’ ability to enter the uterus
- Ejaculation dysfunction
IUI is not recommended for the following patients:
- Women who have severe disease of the fallopian tubes
- Women with a history of pelvic infections
- Women with moderate to severe endometriosis
How does IUI work?
Before intrauterine insemination, ovulation stimulating medications may be used, in which case careful monitoring will be necessary to determine when the eggs are mature. The IUI procedure will then be performed around the time of ovulation, typically about 24-36 hours after the surge in LH hormone that indicates ovulation will occur soon.
A semen sample will be washed by the lab to separate the semen from the seminal fluid. A catheter will then be used to insert the sperm directly into the uterus. This process maximizes the number of sperm cells that are placed in the uterus, thus increasing the possibility of conception.
The IUI procedure takes only a few minutes and involves minimal discomfort. The next step is to watch for signs and symptoms of pregnancy.
Benefits of IUI
Artificial insemination and IUI can benefit those with male factor infertility, unexplained infertility or cervical mucus problems. This procedure can also help single women and lesbian couples get pregnant and have children with donor sperm. For women over 35 who are having trouble getting pregnant, IUI may be helpful, especially when combined with ovulation-boosting fertility drugs.
IUI and fertility drugs
If your doctor suspects female infertility problems, he or she may prescribe a round of fertility drugs before you begin IUI. This fertility drug process, known as ovulation induction or superovulation, encourages your body to release more eggs in preparation for IUI.
Intrauterine insemination has fairly good success rates and includes the following five steps:
- Semen analysis
- Monitoring of female ovulation
- Obtaining the sperm sample
- Washing and preparing the sperm sample
- Injection of the prepared sample into the uterus
In this section, we review procedures, success rates, side effects, and other important factors related to IUI.
Remember that every couple has such a different fertility journey. Your personal health, combined with your partner’s personal health, will affect your success rates with IUI.