Intrauterine Insemination or IUI Procedure: Do you need it?

iui procedure

What is an IUI procedure?

Intrauterine insemination, or IUI procedure is a fertility treatment wherein sperm is placed directly inside a woman’s uterus in order to facilitate fertilization. The sheer number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes when the IUI process is used is far greater than in the natural process thereby increasing the chances of fertilization.

IUI gives the sperm a better chance at fertilization by giving a head start, but this process still requires the sperm to reach and fertilize the egg by itself. The IUI procedure is a much less invasive and less expensive option when compared to the IVF treatment or in vitro fertilization.

When is the IUI procedure recommended? 

The most common reason to get IUI is a low sperm count or low sperm mobility and both of these are directly addressed in IUI thereby increasing chances of fertilization and pregnancy.

The IUI procedure is also recommended as a fertility treatment for any of the following problems as well:

  • Infertility which is unexplained or for which there are no obvious reasons.

  • A hostile cervical environment which makes it harder for the sperm to fertilize the egg. This includes cervical mucus problems

  • Past procedures of the cervix which may be affecting the sperms’ ability to enter the uterus

  • Ejaculation dysfunction

IUI procedure is not recommended for the following patients:

  • Women with severe disease of the fallopian tubes

  • Women who have a history of pelvic infections

  • Women who suffer from moderate to severe endometriosis

How does the IUI procedure work?

Before the actual process of intrauterine insemination, medications to stimulate the ovulation process are generally used. Thereafter, the eggs are carefully monitored to check whether or not they are mature. The IUI procedure is then performed around the time of ovulation. This is generally done 24-36 hours after a sharp rise in the LH hormone which is indicative that ovulation will happen soon.

The semen sample is prepared by the lab by separating the sperm from the seminal fluid. The sperm is then directly inserted into the uterus using a catheter. Since a large number of sperm is directly placed into the uterus, there is an increased chance of conception.

Is the IUI procedure painful? 

The IUI procedure only takes a few minutes and does not involve much discomfort. Your doctor will insert a speculum in your vagina, very similar to that you would do in a Pap smear test. A small catheter is then threaded into your womb through your cervix through which the best quality sperm is introduced into uterus. Some women may experience menstrual-like cramping, but this is temporary. You may want to take rest for a short time before going home. The next step is to watch for signs and symptoms of pregnancy.

What are the main risks of an IUI procedure?

The biggest concern with IUI is that the chances of becoming pregnant with multiples is greatly increased. This is specially the case if you are taking fertility medication which increases the chances of multiple eggs getting fertilized. There is also the chance of contracting infection after a IUI procedure.

How successful is IUI?

The success rates of IUI depends on a lot of different factors. If a couple goes through the IUI procedure every month, success rates could reach as high as 20% per cycle. This of course depends on variables such as age, the causes of infertility and usage of fertility drugs among other variables.

However, do note that while IUI is a less invasive and a cheaper option when compared to IVF, pregnancy rates from IUI are lower too when compared to those from IVF.

Some couples may want to explore natural, more traditional or even over the counter efforts before they start to explore infertility procedures. Check out our article on foods that can help you increase fertility.