Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), also referred as artificial insemination, is a procedure in which sperm from the male partner are washed, concentrated and placed directly into the woman’s uterus.
IUI increases the number of sperm in the fallopian tubes where eggs are released and fertilisation takes place, and therefore increases the chances of fertilisation. IUI is most often used to treat mild male factor infertility or couples with unexplained infertility.
Intrauterine insemination involves inserting specially prepared (washed) sperm directly into the uterine cavity. This method may be used for several reasons, including poor sperm/cervical mucus interaction or to increase pregnancy rates. IUI allows the sperm to bypass the cervix so that an increased number can reach the uterine cavity and subsequently the fallopian tubes, where fertilisation usually occurs. If the woman has irregular ovulation, the physician may prescribe drugs to induce ovulation.
IUI may be performed in conjunction with these medications to increase the chances of successful fertilisation. Recent data suggests that increasing the number of sperm reaching the fallopian tubes by intrauterine placement may also increase the pregnancy success rate in couples with unexplained infertility, especially with the addition of ovulation drugs.
The IUI process
The IUI process starts at the beginning of the woman’s monthly menstrual cycle, and takes only a few weeks from beginning to end.
- Ovarian stimulation – In many cases, the woman takes medication to stimulate the production of multiple egg-containing follicles and prepare her uterine lining.
- Monitoring – The fertility specialist will use ultrasound to monitor follicle development and determine the ideal time for insemination.
- Ovulation induction – The woman receives an injection of the hormone hCG at exactly the right time, triggering ovulation.
- Sperm washing – The partner’s or donor’s sperm is prepared in our IVF lab for insemination, separating healthy, motile sperm from non-motile sperm and other seminal cells and fluid.
- Insemination – The final sperm sample is placed into the uterus through a flexible catheter passed through the cervix.
Who should use IUI?
IUI is often effective for women with unexplained infertility, or those who have been diagnosed with semen allergy, hostile cervical conditions or cervical scar tissue. It also improves the odds for hopeful fathers who have low sperm count, mild sperm motility issues, or ejaculation dysfunction.
This is accomplished by retrieving sperm from the male, which can be done in a variety of ways, from simple cup collection to surgical removal. The sperm is cleansed and concentrated, giving the sperm a much better chance at fertilising the egg. During cleansing, the seminal fluid is removed and the most viable sperm are separated.
Once everything is prepped, the process is quite short and painless. The woman’s cervix is exposed using a speculum, and the sperm is slowly placed into the uterus via a soft catheter. If, afterwards, the woman experiences a missed period of at least 15 days, then a pregnancy test is conducted.
When used in conjunction with Ovulation Induction, Intrauterine Insemination can be invaluable for increasing your chances of becoming pregnant.