Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), or artificial insemination, is a fertility treatment wherein sperm are placed directly into a woman's uterus in order to facilitate fertilization. For couples who have been unable to conceive, IUI is a relatively inexpensive and painless procedure that increases the chances that sperm will reach the fallopian tubes and result in a pregnancy.
The IUI procedure is recommended only after a couple has tried unsuccessfully to conceive on their own for a period of one year. Candidates for the procedure include couples who suffer from low sperm count, poor sperm mobility, sexual dysfunction, cervical complications, or unexplained infertility. In order to undergo IUI a woman must have at least one open fallopian tube.
In a lab, a semen sample (obtained from a woman's partner or from a sperm donor) is processed in order to separate the semen from the seminal fluid. Once the semen is prepared, or "washed," it is injected into the uterus by way of a thin catheter. The IUI process takes only minutes and is pain free, although there may be some temporary cramping during the IUI process, and there is a one percent risk of infection following the procedure.
IUI and Fertility Drugs
Sometimes fertility drugs are recommended to augment a woman's chances of getting pregnant via IUI. Fertility drugs are medications that stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs for fertilization. In general, the success of IUI increases when used in conjunction with fertility drugs.
The timing of the IUI procedure is critical since IUI should be performed within hours of the onset of ovulation in order to result in fertilization. Ovulation kits, which indicate when a woman is ovulating, are helpful tools in this regard. Alternatively, women may take fertility drugs such as Clomid, or a class of injected fertility drugs called gonadotropins, which are used to stimulate ovulation prior to IUI.
Women typically have to undergo several IUI cycles in order to succeed and become pregnant. The IUI success rate depends on many factors, such as the age of the woman (women under the age of 35 have higher rates of success), the cause of infertility, the health of the sperm, and more. However, sometimes IUI can result in multiple births and in related pregnancy complications, as well as in a condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome.
Overall, the IUI procedure is a less invasive and less expensive fertility alternative than its counterparts, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), and is popular because it utilizes the body's natural fertilization process.