Intrauterine insemination, or IUI, is a fertility treatment method where the sperm is introduced directly into the uterine cavity at the time of ovulation, for facilitating pregnancy. The process involves transferring of specially washed semen into the uterus of the woman via a catheter. It is a less invasive procedure compared to IVF.
An IUI treatment may be recommended in cases of:
- Male infertility issues like low sperm count, poor motility or ejaculation dysfunction
- Hostile cervical mucus of the woman
- Unexplained infertility
- Failure of fertility drugs
- When sperms from a donor are used
- When sexual intercourse is not possible for some reason
Same-sex couples and single women that want to become pregnant without a male partner may become candidates for IUI treatment.
IUI is not recommended if the fallopian tubes are blocked or damaged or if the female partner is suffering from severe endometriosis.
How is the procedure done?
- Before the IUI procedure, the sperm specimen is prepared by separating the sperms from the seminal fluid in the lab. If your partner’s sperms are not being used, a frozen sample of donor sperm may be used which is thawed and then prepared.
- Because the timing of IUI is important, the female partner is monitored for signs of impending ovulation. This can be done by using an at-home ovulation detecting kit or by conducting a transvaginal ultrasound. Some women may need hormone stimulating injection to produce one or more eggs at the right time.
- Once the sperm is ready, the physician will introduce a speculum (a specialized medical tool) into the vagina to prepare the cervix. A small amount of the prepared sperm is drawn into a syringe with a tiny catheter attached. The catheter is introduced into the cervix and then the sperm is injected into the uterus.
- The catheter and speculum are removed and you may be asked to rest for some time.
What are the risks involved in IUI treatment?
Complications from an IUI treatment are rare, as it is a simple and safe procedure. Few risks are:
- Slight chances of infection
- Light vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Multiple births- When combined with ovulation-stimulating medications, the probability of having more than one baby increases significantly. A multiple pregnancy poses risks like early labor and low birth weight.
What is the success rate of IUI treatment?
If a couple undergoes the IUI treatment each month, success rates may reach as high as 20% per cycle depending on factors such as the female age, the reason for infertility, and whether fertility drugs were used.
You have to wait at least two weeks before testing for a pregnancy post IUI treatment. If a pregnancy doesn’t occur, you might try IUI again before moving on to other fertility treatment options. Most often, IUI treatment doctors recommend carrying out the same therapy for about three to six months to increase the chances of pregnancy.