Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) Fertility Treatment
What is IUI treatment?
Intrauterine (within the uterus) insemination (IUI) involves collecting sperm from a male partner or donor and placing it directly into a woman’s uterus using a catheter. The procedure is similar to a Pap smear and meaningfully helps sperm find an egg.
The benefit of IUI is an increased chance of pregnancy relative to intercourse, especially if medications are used prior to stimulate the ovaries for extra eggs.
What does IUI mean?
IUI stands for intrauterine insemination, which treats infertility and involves a doctor placing sperm directly into a woman’s uterus. The procedure’s goal is to boost the chance of pregnancy by helping sperm make its way to the fallopian tubes where fertilization of the female egg takes place. IUI allows more sperm to find the egg, which increases the odds of fertilization and pregnancy.
When a woman conceives naturally, sperm travel from the vagina through the cervix (narrow, lower part of the womb), into the uterus (womb), and up into one of the fallopian tubes. If sperm arrive in a tube soon after the release of the egg from the ovary (ovulation); the sperm and egg can meet and unite (fertilization) in the tube.
The cervix naturally limits the number of sperm that enter the uterus. This means that only a small percentage of the sperm in the ejaculate actually make their way into the fallopian tubes. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a procedure that places sperm past the cervix and in a woman’s uterus around the time of ovulation. This makes the passage to the fallopian tubes much shorter, and there is a better chance that more sperm will encounter the egg. The goal of this procedure is to improve a woman’s chance of getting pregnant. Source: American Society for Reproductive Medicine
What is the IUI procedure?
Before an IUI, sperm are collected from the male partner or sperm donor and cleaned, or “washed.” The washing process separates the sperm from the semen, concentrates the number of healthy sperm in a sample and removes potentially harmful chemicals.
The IUI procedure is typically performed just before a woman is ovulating. A doctor may use ultrasound imaging to monitor a woman’s ovulation or may recommend she use a home ovulation predictor kit.
During intrauterine insemination, the doctor places the washed sperm sample directly into the woman’s uterus using a catheter. The procedure takes only a few minutes and is relatively painless. Some women compare the feeling of the catheter to getting a Pap smear.
What are the Benefits of IUI?
Because sperm are placed close to the fallopian tubes where fertilization occurs, the likelihood of achieving pregnancy is higher with IUI than it is through intercourse. IUI also has higher success rates than past approaches to artificial insemination, in which doctors would place sperm into a woman’s vagina or cervix.
IUI is a simple procedure that has very few risks (see below) and no recovery time. In comparison with other advanced fertility treatments, IUI is also more affordable. A doctor may recommend IUI for some individuals before trying more costly and complex treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) .
While IUI success rates vary from person to person depending on age, medical history and other factors, most women under 40 have a 10 to 20 percent chance of getting pregnant after IUI. Women older than 40 have lower success rates (from about 2 to 10 percent) because egg quality declines with age.
Who should consider IUI?
IUI may be recommended as part of a treatment plan for men and women who are experiencing infertility. The procedure is most often used when the male partner has low sperm count and/or poor sperm quality. In particular, those who struggle with the following conditions may benefit from IUI:
Men with male factor infertility
Couples with unexplained infertility
Women with mild endometriosis
Women with unfavorable cervical conditions, including thick mucus and scarring
Couples struggling with sexual dysfunction
Couples with other causes for sub-fertility, but it is believed there are unexplained factors beyond those identified.
Individuals with certain infertility conditions are also more likely to have success with IUI when the woman takes fertility medications before the procedure that stimulate egg production in the ovaries. These medications allow the ovaries to produce and release more eggs during ovulation than they normally would, which increases the odds of the sperm successfully fertilizing at least one egg.
If a woman’s ovaries do not release eggs normally, then fertility medication may also stimulate the ovaries to release at least one egg during ovulation. A fertility doctor can identify if a woman should take fertility medications before an IUI based on her infertility diagnosis and the health of the sperm sample to be used.
In instances of severe male factor infertility, a couple may choose to use donor sperm to increase their likelihood of achieving pregnancy with IUI. A man with severe male factor infertility typically has sperm that lacks the ability to fertilize an egg. This may be because the man’s body is not able to produce enough sperm or because the sperm has a problem with motility (movement) or shape. Donor sperm is tested to make sure it has all of the attributes of healthy sperm, and thus is more likely to fertilize an egg than sperm of below-average quality.
Single women and lesbian couples may also use IUI to get pregnant. Some abbreviate this process as TDI (therapeutic donor insemination) instead of IUI. In these cases, the patients can elect to use donor sperm, which may come from an anonymous donor, a family member or a friend.
Because of Food and Drug Administration regulations that treat donor sperm similar to organ donation, it is often easier to use an anonymous donor than a known donor.
Related Information: Learn More About Our Affordable Sperm Donor Options
What are the Risks of IUI?
IUI has few risks. Minor risks include infection, spotting and a slight increase in the chance for a multiple pregnancy (twins or more).
Signs of infection may include chills, fever or pelvic pain and you should call your doctor if you have these rare symptoms.
Women often experience spotting (light vaginal bleeding) after the IUI procedure. In some cases, they may also experience cramping and a feeling of being full or bloated. These side effects are temporary and do not affect a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant.
Women who are taking ovulation-inducing medications as part of their fertility treatment have an increased chance of multiple pregnancy (twins or more).
Research indicates that multiple pregnancies have a higher risk for complications than single-embryo pregnancies. Women with multiple pregnancies are more likely to have their babies prematurely and to develop certain conditions, like anemia and gestational hypertension. Babies from a multiple pregnancy more often have low birth weights, which can lead to physical complications, diseases and mental developmental issues.
Using ultrasound to monitor fertility medications improves the balance between safety and success, as the goal is not just pregnancy but a healthy child.
IUI versus IVF
One of the most common questions patients ask is: what is the difference between IUI and IVF? Both assisted reproductive technology approaches, Intrauterine insemination (IUI) or In vitro fertilization (IVF) can be successful at helping grow your family. We always consider lower cost treatments like IUI before recommending more advanced infertility treatment options such as IVF. IUI is often considered as the first line of treatment for unexplained infertility, mild endometriosis, or mild male factor infertility.
In vitro fertilization is typically recommended for couples who have been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for one year and who display one or more fertility problems, such as:
Blocked fallopian tubes from scarring or tubal ligation
Lack of ovulation
Extremely low male sperm count or low motility
Male partner with a history of a vasectomy
Diminished egg supply and poor egg vitality
Egg donation and/or IVF surrogacy
IVF is generally recommended for couples that have failed to conceive after three unsuccessful IUI cycles
Next steps: IUI Fertility Treatment at Positive Steps Fertility
If you have had difficulty conceiving or have questions about your options for conception, call us today. Positive Steps Fertility is fully equipped to evaluate both male and female causes of infertility and determine if you are a candidate for IUI. After a diagnosis, we’ll partner with you to determine the right treatment option with the highest chance of pregnancy.
Positive Steps Fertility welcomes single women and LGBTQ patients who are interested in undergoing IUI. We value all future parents and look forward to helping you on your journey!