Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is an in-office procedure used when there are fertility problems with the male’s sperm or for couples who have an unexplained infertility. Also known as artificial insemination, it is often the first procedure patients pursue. It is a lesser expensive fertility treatment and is relatively simple and painless for the patient.
In addition to problems with the male sperm fertility, women who have an ovulatory disorder or mild endometriosis may also benefit from the IUI procedure.
IUI can be performed using donor sperm in cases when a woman chooses to have a baby on her own, for lesbian couples, and when there are no sperm present from the male.
IUI is more commonly used than other types of artificial insemination treatments including vaginal and cervical insemination. This is because IUI procedures insure a higher sperm count entering the female reproductive tract, which means increased chances of a sperm successfully fertilizing an egg.
The woman’s ovulation cycle is monitored both at home by using ovulation predictor kits and at the clinic by ultrasound and blood tests. Hormone injections are used to time ovulation, and fertility drugs may or may not be used by the patient to increase pregnancy chances.
The morning of the procedure, the male will provide a semen sample. For best results it is recommended that the male practices sexual abstinence for two to five days before the procedure. The sperm cells that have been collected are analyzed, separated and “washed.” The sperm cells are then placed into a specially designed fluid to help them survive.
Next, the millions of sperm are inserted into the woman’s vagina similarly to how a Pap smear is performed. The sperm is placed near the fallopian tubes opening, at the top of the uterus. The process is quick and performed in the clinic.
Although uncommon, risks of the procedure may include uterine cramping, infection and possible venereal disease through the transmission of the sperm.
The pregnancy success rate is five percent to 20 percent per cycle. The wide range accounts for many variables including the woman’s age, a healthy reproductive system and total sperm count.
Taking fertility drugs can increase the chances of pregnancy by stimulating the ovulation of multiple eggs. The largest risk to consider when using fertility drugs, however, is the potential of conceiving twins.
In cases where IUI is not successful after the first cycle, patients may decide to continue with IUI (averaging three to six cycle attempts) or move on to another method with a higher success rate – in vitro fertilization (IVF).