IUI at a glance
- With intrauterine insemination (IUI), also referred to as artificial insemination, millions of sperm are placed directly into the uterus when the woman is most fertile, immediately prior to and during ovulation.
- The sperm cells are first “washed” with special solutions, then concentrated to increase the number of sperm that make it to the fallopian tube where fertilization takes place. This improves the chances for conception.
- IUI may be performed with or without the use of fertility drugs by the woman. When such drugs are used, the therapy is referred to as controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH). IUI with COH generally results in higher pregnancy chances.
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Who needs IUI?
People who benefit from IUI include:
- couples with no known cause of infertility
- women with ovulatory disorders who respond well to fertility medication
- women with mild endometriosis
- women using donor semen
For some patients, IVF will be the better route to take to pregnancy, including:
- women with blocked or severely damaged fallopian tubes
- women with structural problems of the uterus
- women who do not ovulate
- men with low sperm counts, poor morphology, and/or poor motility
If the female patient has no male partner to provide sperm, insemination using donor sperm is available.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine provides guidelines for the use of donor sperm. It is the ASRM’s position that under present circumstances, the use of fresh semen for donor insemination is not warranted. All frozen specimens should be quarantined for 180 days and the donor should be retested and found to be seronegative for HIV before the specimen is released. These requirements provide safety for patients undergoing IUI.
What is an IUI?
How is IUI performed?
- May or may not use fertility drugs to stimulate the ovulation of more than one oocyte
- Monitors ovulation with a combination of at-home (home ovulation predictor kits, basal body temperature) and clinic (ultrasound, blood tests) techniques
- Is monitored by the clinic for any adverse effects of fertility drugs
- Receives a hormone injection (human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG) to prompt timed ovulation
The man’s role is to provide a semen sample on the morning of ovulation. The semen sample is prepared and then inserted through the cervix and into the uterus by way of a fine catheter. The procedure takes place in the clinic and is relatively painless. No general anesthetic is necessary.
What are the risks of IUI?
Though complications of IUI are infrequent, they include infection, uterine cramping, and rarely, transmission of venereal disease from the semen sample. Also, fertility medications have potential side effects, including ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and multiple pregnancy.
If no pregnancy is achieved after three IUIs, specialists may recommend more advanced reproductive therapies such as IVF.
Success rates for IUI depend largely on the cause of infertility and the woman’s age. If the sperm count and cells are optimal and the woman’s fallopian tubes healthy, conception rates for IUI with COH can range from five to 15 percent per cycle.