Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a procedure in which specially prepared sperm is placed into a women’s uterus while she is ovulating, for the purpose of achieving pregnancy.
While other more advanced fertility treatments may have higher success rates, IUI is still a great place to start for many couples, since it is easy to do, inexpensive and has few side effects.
When is IUI Used?
IUI is especially useful in cases where the sperm numbers are low or they are not moving well (male factor), because it bypasses the vagina and mucus in the cervix where 99.9% of sperm get stuck. It also shortens the distance sperm have to travel for fertilization.
In addition to male factors, intrauterine insemination may be used in couples with unexplained infertility or in women with cervical issues. In such women, the mucus in the canal of the cervix is thickened or otherwise prevents sperm from reaching the uterus and fallopian tubes. Even when no reason for a couple’s infertility is found, IUI can improve chances of conceiving.
IUI Procedure Details
Intrauterine insemination, sometimes referred to as artificial insemination (AI), consists of two steps:
- The first step is “washing” the sperm. This is necessary because the fluid around the sperm contains substances known as prostaglandins that will make the uterus contract if placed directly into the uterus. The washing process also removes cellular debris and dead sperm from the sample. After the sperm is washed, it is placed in a smaller volume of fluid (media) specially designed to help the sperm survive.
- The second step is placing the washed sperm into the uterus. This is accomplished by inserting a speculum into the woman’s vagina, as is done for a Pap smear, and passing a flexible, thin catheter through the cervix and into the uterus. The sperm is then deposited at the top of the uterus, near the openings of the fallopian tubes.
Preparing for IUI
In order to maximize the chances of a successful pregnancy with IUI, the female patient is sometimes treated with medications such as Clomid to stimulate ovulation.
For men collecting a sperm sample to be used in IUI, sexual abstinence of at least two days, but not more than five days, is recommended. The sperm sample is analyzed in our fertility laboratory and the most active and healthy sperm in the sample are separated and used for the IUI procedure.
Factors that may influence the success rate of intrauterine insemination include:
- Egg quality
- Condition of the fallopian tubes
- Sperm quality
- Uterine fibroids
- A woman’s age
If you have questions about intrauterine insemination or your reproductive health, please call us at (303) 321-7115 and request a free phone consultation with one of our doctors, or make an appointment to schedule an evaluation.