If you’ve stumbled on this page, you might be deciding whether Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI) is right for you. If that’s the case, we’re here to help. Here’s everything you need to know about IUI.
An IUI is a type of artificial insemination in which sperm is injected directly into your uterine cavity near the time of ovulation. This procedure can be performed either with your partner’s sperm or with sperm from a donor.
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How is an IUI performed?
IUI is considered the first-line treatment for unexplained infertility, mild endometriosis, or mild male factor infertility.
In general, IUI does two things: medication taken before the injection help stimulate the growth of eggs, making a woman more fertile than she would be without the medication. Then, via the injection, the sperm is placed inside the uterine cavity, avoiding having to swim through the cervical opening and into the uterus on its own, allowing it to meet the egg more easily.
During the procedure, the male partner will be asked to provide a semen sample about an hour or two before being scheduled for insemination. This is done by masturbating into a sterile container at the doctor’s office or at home. The semen is “washed” to separate the sperm from the seminal fluid. This must be done before the sperm can be injected into the uterus because the seminal fluid contains substances that can irritate your uterus. Sperm “washing” may also improve the ability of the sperm to fertilize the egg.
The insemination takes only a few minutes. A fertility specialist will place a speculum inside the vagina, insert a small catheter through the cervix into the uterine cavity, and inject the sperm through the catheter into the uterus. During this procedure, the patient will most likely not feel any discomfort.
Main Differences Between IUI and IVF Procedures
There are more differences between the two procedures than similarities, but the biggest difference is that the sperm is not injected into the egg during IUI to achieve fertilization. The fertilization is still meant to happen naturally through IUI – doctors just help to place the sperm a little closer to the egg through this process.
Who needs IUI?
- Women who may not ovulate, such as those with PCOS, or hypothalamic patients
- Women with unexplained infertility
- Male partners with minor semen abnormalities or ejaculatory dysfunction
- Male partners who have frozen sperm obtained prior to surgery, travel, or treatment for diseases
- Anyone who needs donor sperm, such as LGBT couples, heterosexual couples struggling with male factor or single women looking to conceive
IUI is less expensive than IVF, and is usually covered by insurance, making it an accessible, popular and minimally invasive procedure. The average cost of an IUI cycle is around $900.
Preparing for an IUI Cycle
Before the procedure, you’ll need to do some testing to ensure IUI is the right step for you.
This is the same testing women preparing for IVF will take, and will help your doctor understand your fertility needs better. You’ll have blood work done to test for hormones regulating your ovarian reserve, as well as genetic blood work to find out whether you’re a carrier for disease.
The sperm you’ll be using – whether from a donor or your partner – will undergo analysis and you’ll also have a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) taken to ensure your fallopian tubes are open to permit sperm to pass. If that all looks good, you’ll be scheduled for an IUI.
You should abstain from sex for 2 or 3 days before the procedure. If you are not ovulating regularly, your doctor may prescribe medication to induce ovulation. Check with your doctor to see if there are any other recommendations specific to your care.
Women who undergo IUI also usually have to have their ovaries stimulated beforehand to mature eggs and take a trigger shot to release one egg. Then, the sperm being used must be prepared, and only afterward the insemination can occur.
This stimulation process can take about 10 days. Women who choose not to have stimulation before IUI just follow their natural cycle, take an injection to induce ovulation and have the IUI done afterward.
Is there a risk for twins or triplets with IUI?
Yes, if you are taking ovary-stimulating medication before your IUI procedure. Because this medication tells your body to mature as many follicles as possible, there is a chance that when it comes time to ovulate, your body releases more than one egg, and a woman can become pregnant with twins. This happens in about 10-20 percent of cases involving IUI.
How can an IUI cycle help to improve my chances of pregnancy?
Since the sperm is placed directly inside a woman’s uterus, they are closer to the site of fertilization. IUI bypasses many problems that take place in the vagina or cervix, such as an incompatibility between sperm and cervical mucus. IUI also improves the delivery of the sperm to the egg, especially when the sperm count is low or the sperm do not move well.
Will I need multiple IUIs to become pregnant?
If a woman does not become pregnant after an IUI cycle, they may have to repeat the procedure. Further evaluation or other treatment options such as IVF, may be recommended if a patient does not get pregnant after several cycles.
How soon will we know if this treatment was successful?
You will probably know in about 2 weeks – if you become pregnant, you will most likely miss your next period. A blood test will confirm whether or not you are pregnant.