Understanding Intrauterine Insemination

Of the many trusted fertility treatments available today, Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is one of the oldest. In fact, a form of IUI has been helping couples conceive since the 1700s. Though the IUI procedure has improved significantly since the 18th century, it is still helping families realize their dreams of parenthood.

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The American Pregnancy Association notes that IUI’s success rates can be as high as 20 percent per cycle for couples who use the procedure monthly. If you and your partner are struggling with infertility, IUI is a treatment that may be ideal for you.

What is IUI?

The procedure involves washing and concentrating sperm (collected from your partner or a donor during a previous appointment) and using a transfer catheter inserted through the cervix to place the sperm directly into the uterus.

The process is timed to occur close to when the uterus begins producing eggs. The sperm can then swim into the fallopian tube and fertilize an egg. Once the egg is fertilized, the pregnancy can proceed as is typical. In some cases, no further medical intervention may be needed.

How can IUI Help with Infertility?

Infertility has many causes. In some cases, it may be caused as a result of decreased egg reserve. In other instances, a woman’s partner might not be producing enough sperm or the sperm might not be quick enough to reach an egg and engage in fertilization.

In both of these cases, IUI can help with infertility as it places sperm directly into the uterus at the proper moment, without the hurdles of having to travel through the cervix. In other words, while IUI doesn’t involve fertilizing the egg, it ensures that the egg and the sperm are in the uterus at the right time. This drastically increases the likelihood of fertilization and becoming pregnant.

Who is a Candidate for IUI?

Your doctor might suggest IUI if you fall into one of the categories discussed above, including if you’re taking fertility medication for decreased egg reserve or your partner has been diagnosed with low sperm count or poor sperm motility.

IUI is also the first plan of action for individuals with unexplained fertility and endometriosis-related fertility concerns. Because IUI is less invasive and time-consuming than other fertility treatments, many specialists decide to try it first when treating a couple without a clear fertility diagnosis or if a woman has uterine tissue growing outside of the uterus.

Women who have chosen to use a donor sperm, or who are using sperm collected as part of oncofertility treatment are also typically treated using IUI. Finally, women who suffer from infertility because of inadequate cervical mucus can also benefit from IUI as the cervix is unable to adversely affect the fertilization process.

Are there any Risks Involved?

As with any medical procedure, IUI is not entirely free of risk. However, the Mayo Clinic notes the process is not complex and is generally considered safe.

IUI has a low risk of minor complications, including infection in about one percent of women, slight vaginal bleeding, and multiple pregnancies if combined with fertility drugs. Your doctor will assess your medical history and discuss any specific risks before performing your IUI procedure.

What does the Procedure Entail?

Your fertility doctor will monitor your ovulation cycle to determine the best time for implantation. Your doctor will also collect, prepare, and store a sperm sample from your partner.

On the day of your IUI treatment, little preparation is needed. IUI is an outpatient procedure that typically takes about 15-20 minutes to complete. While you might experience minor discomfort, the IUI process is quite similar to undergoing a pap test. After IUI is complete, you can typically continue going about your day as normal.

About two weeks after your treatment, your doctor will likely ask you to take a pregnancy test. If you get a positive result, your doctor will request that you follow up with a blood test.

Because it is relatively simple and safe, IUI is a common fertility treatment that has helped many individuals and couples achieve their dreams of having children. If you think IUI could help you, talk to your fertility doctor. An experienced fertility doctor can provide more detail about the procedure, determine whether you’re a good candidate, and discuss tips for preparing for the procedure.

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