When a couple is facing infertility or a woman without a partner wants to get pregnant, there are different fertility treatments that can help. The most common is intrauterine insemination (IUI), often referred to as artificial insemination.
In IUI, sperm is transferred directly into the uterus. Because there is no egg retrieval or fertilization outside of the body involved, it is a less invasive and less expensive option than In vitro fertilization (IVF), which does require those steps.
If you are considering having an IUI procedure and want to know what to expect, here is a short step-by-step guide:
What to Expect During the IUI Procedure
The IUI procedure is a process that is made up of three basic steps.
1. Your ovulation will be tracked to identify your fertile period.
Timing is crucial in intrauterine insemination. The first step of the IUI procedure is determining when you will be most fertile so that the actual insemination can be performed then. By tracking your ovulation, the doctor can identify when the procedure is most likely to be successful.
You may be given medications to stimulate ovulation so that more than one egg may be released in a single cycle. The medications you may be prescribed can include injections of hormones like human chorionic gonadotropin-releasing hormone (HCG), luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
To monitor ovulation, you will visit your fertility doctor several times before the procedure. Blood tests to check hormone levels are common ways for doctors to track ovulation before IUI. Transvaginal ultrasounds are also necessary to get a visual picture of the follicles and monitor how they are maturing.
Once the time of ovulation is determined, your doctor will schedule the procedure within 24-36 hours of that date.
2. The sperm is collected and washed
This part of the IUI procedure can vary slightly depending on whose sperm you are using and whether or not it has been frozen at an earlier date.
If you are using your partner’s sperm, they will come into the clinic that day to give a sperm sample. It is possible for the sperm to be given before the day of insemination if your partner’s schedule does not permit them to be present on that day. If your partner had his sperm frozen and you are using it, the sperm will be thawed and prepped.
If you are using donor sperm, then the clinic will receive it and prepare it. It may also need to be thawed.
The sperm is prepared for insemination through a careful washing process. This is done because semen is made up of more than just sperm. The washing process eliminates the other components and leaves only the material needed for conception – the sperm itself. This process may also be used to select the healthiest sperm available, especially if mild male factor infertility involving sperm quality is an issue.
3. Sperm is inserted directly into the uterus.
After the sperm is collected and prepared, the insemination procedure can be done. In the clinic, you lie down on a gynecological table like the one used during exams. A small, thin tube called a catheter is inserted into the cervix. The prepared sperm will be transferred directly into the uterus through the catheter. Most women report only mild discomfort, if any. It may be similar to the light cramping experienced during a pap smear.
After the transfer is complete, the catheter is removed and the procedure is over. You may be instructed to stay lying horizontally for a short time after the procedure.
Am I a Candidate for IUI?
Intrauterine insemination is not always the best treatment option for all conditions. Whether or not you are a good candidate for IUI depends on what kind of infertility issues you have. Intrauterine insemination is often used in individuals or couples with the following conditions:
- Mild male factor infertility
- Cervical factor infertility
- Semen allergy
- Ovulation related infertility
- Unexplained infertility
- Women who require donor sperm
According to the American Pregnancy Association, IUI is not the best option for women with a history of pelvic infections, women with moderate to severe endometriosis, or women who have severe disease of the fallopian tubes.
For More Information
At Laurel Fertility, we are dedicated to providing personalized care for all of our patients and will work with you to develop a fertility treatment plan that is right for you. Together, we will consider your medical condition and any budgetary concerns you may have. From there we can decide if something like IUI is a viable option or if there are other treatments that may be more beneficial. If you want to discuss whether or not the IUI procedure is right for you, you can call us at 415-673-9199 or request an appointment online.