Fertility problems affect approximately 6% of couples in the United States. Couples who have had months of unprotected sex without getting pregnant may benefit from a comprehensive fertility evaluation. One common fertility treatment is intrauterine insemination, also known as IUI. Learn what to expect from an IUI to prepare for your appointment.
What Is IUI?
Intrauterine insemination is a form of artificial insemination that is commonly used to treat infertility. The procedure involves placement of sperm directly into the uterus. The procedure is timed to match the window in which your ovary releases one or multiple eggs to be fertilized. The IUI procedure allows sperm to enter the fallopian tube, fertilize the egg, and result in a successful pregnancy.
Who May Be Appropriate Candidates for an IUI?
IUI may be an appropriate treatment for multiple types of fertility problems. For example, men with minimal male factor infertility are unable to produce a robust number of healthy sperm. The IUI procedure involves “washing” and concentrating the sperm to ensure those that remain are likely to reach the egg.
Some women experience infertility because of issues with their cervical mucus. Cervical mucus problems can prevent healthy sperm from traveling up the vagina, through the cervix, and into the uterus to inseminate an egg. IUI bypasses this problem by placing sperm directly into the uterus.
Your fertility doctor may also recommend IUI if you have trouble getting pregnant but no specific cause has been determined. IUI can be helpful in these instances of unexplained infertility, increasing the likelihood of a successful pregnancy.
What to Expect from an IUI
If you choose to do IUI, the procedure entails:
Provision of a semen sample. Your partner may provide a semen sample, or you may receive a sample from a donor. The sample will first be “washed” to eliminate non-sperm elements found in semen, as these can sometimes interfere with fertility. Only highly active, normal sperm are included in the final sample.
Determine when ovulation occurs. Accurate timing is the most important part of IUI. This may be done through an at-home urine ovulation predictor kit, which detects a hormone that spikes during ovulation. Alternatively, a transvaginal ultrasound may be used to identify egg growth. Typically, the IUI procedure will be performed 1 or 2 days after ovulation is detected.
The in-clinic procedure. The IUI procedure takes 15-20 minutes and is similar to a Pap smear. You will lie on a table with your legs in stirrups. A speculum is inserted into your vagina, and a vial containing the sperm sample is inserted through your cervical opening using a catheter. Once the sample is deposited, the catheter and speculum are removed.
After two weeks, it is time to take a pregnancy test. Although some couples require multiple rounds of IUI, the procedure remains a highly effective fertility treatment.