Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): Six questions (and answers!)

Perhaps you are at the start of your fertility journey, and you are sorting through the treatments and options available to you. You’ve doubtless encountered a host of acronyms and medical jargon. What is in vitro fertilization (IVF)? What is intrauterine insemination (IUI)? What’s the difference between the two?

We’ve put this brief explainer together to help walk you through the basics of Intrauterine Insemination (IUI).

What is intrauterine insemination?

Simply put, IUI involves carefully placing the sperm directly into a woman’s uterus while she is ovulating.

Will intrauterine insemination help me?

Intrauterine insemination is helpful in situations where low sperm count or reduced motility is a factor. It’s also helpful in cases where cervical issues present a barrier, or when infertility is unexplained.

Intrauterine insemination may also be an option for same-sex couples, women without a partner, or others seeking to become pregnant with the help of donated sperm.

How does intrauterine insemination work?

Intrauterine insemination is performed when the woman is ovulating. Tracking ovulation can be performed at home with daily urine tests or in your provider’s office with a pelvic ultrasound.

Ovulation results from a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH)in a woman’s bloodstream. Alternatively, your provider may administer an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) to achieve a similar effect. That surge in hormone levels signals that an egg is mature and ready for release. Medications such as clomophine citrate, letrozole, or gonadotropins may also be used to stimulate or support ovulation.

IUI is typically performed 24-36 hours after detection of the LH surge or administration of HCG.

For couples using fresh partner sperm, the male partner will be asked to abstain from sex or masturbation for 48 hours before the IUI. Abstention will maximize the number and quality of sperm available. The sample can be produced either at home or in the doctor’s office. Once the sample is produced, seminal fluid will be washed away, and the most vigorous sperm will be loaded into an IUI catheter.

The IUI procedure itself is quick and causes minimal discomfort, if any. Just as with the typical pelvic exam, a speculum is inserted into the woman’s vagina. A flexible catheter is passed through the cervix directly into the uterus. The sperm is then transferred into the uterus through the catheter.

What is the success rate for intrauterine insemination?

The pregnancy rate for patients that undergo IUI depends on multiple factors, including the age of the woman, the sperm parameters in the sample that is being used, and the reason that IUI is being done For women under the age of 35, pregnancy rates can be as high as 15-20 percent per cycle in some cases.

What are the risks of intrauterine insemination?

While most women report no pain during an IUI, there may be some mild discomfort during the procedure and some cramping or spotting after. As with most medical procedures, there is also a slight risk of infection.

While IUI itself doesn’t increase the risk of multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets and more), the use of hormones to boost ovulation might. Multiple pregnancies carry increased risks for both mother and children.

How much does intrauterine insemination cost?

IUI typically costs less than other fertility treatments, such as IVF. Our office can help you verify your insurance benefits and discuss financing options in more detail.


Author Info

Jenny Shanks