Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) (or also called artificial insemination) is one of the first Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) typically recommended by your doctor when the male partner is having a low sperm count or decreased sperm mobility. Although, IUI can also can be recommended when you have an unexplained infertility, endometriosis, semen allergy, or cervical mucus abnormalities. This fertility treatment involves placing healthy sperm inside a woman’s uterus as close to the fallopian tubes as possible, giving them a head start. Although, the sperm still has to reach and fertilize the egg on its own. The goal of IUI is to increase the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes and therefore increase the chance of fertilization. IUI is a less invasive and less expensive option compared to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
How does IUI work?
- Your fertility doctor may recommend a natural IUI cycle, meaning no fertility medication are used. Or a doctor may give you a fertility medication at the beginning of your period to stimulate the ovaries to produce several mature eggs. (Women typically release only one egg a month). Then, your ovulation cycle will be monitored.
- On the day of the insemination, a semen specimen is either produced at home or in the office by masturbation after 2-5 days of abstinence from ejaculation.
- Sperm washing process: The semen is “washed” in the laboratory when they separate the sperm from the other components of the semen then concentrate them into smaller volume.
- Your fertility doctor uses a sterile thin, long tube (a catheter) to put the concentrated sperm directly into the woman’s uterus through the cervix. The procedure is usually painless, should feel similar to a pap smear for the woman. Some women feel mild cramping.
- Final step, you just have to wait for the pregnancy test.
How long does IUI take?
The insemination itself only takes few minutes if you are on a natural IUI cycle. If you are on fertility medication IUI cycle, you will need to start taking the fertility medications about a week before your ovulate. It may take you three or four IUI cycles before becoming pregnant or trying In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) that has a higher chance of success.
IUI Success Rate
It is hard to determine the success of IUI since there are several factors that affect the success rate. According to American Pregnancy Association, if a couple perform IUI procedure each month, the success rate may reach as high as 20% per cycle depending on variables such as female age, infertility reason, and whether fertility drugs were used.
In comparison to IVF pregnancy rates, IUI pregnancy rates are certainly lower.
How many artificial inseminations to try before doing IVF?
- You will probably need to try IVF after 2-4 failed IUIs with fertility medication.
- If the female age is 40 or older.
- If the female have a low ovarian reserve. A day 3 FSH, ovarian antral follicle counts and AMH blood levels are often used as screening tests for egg quantity.
Preparation before IUI cycle
You will need to get healthy before trying to get pregnant. This includes an IUI cycle. To optimize your chances of getting a healthy pregnancy is to practice a healthy lifestyle such as stop smoking, drinking, and other drugs. You should aim for a healthy weight. Your doctor would probably recommend you to take prenatal vitamins, make sure that you are up to date on your immunizations.