You may have heard of intrauterine insemination (IUI), sometimes referred to as artificial insemination, but do you know exactly what the process involves and who is a candidate for insemination?
What is Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)?
IUI is a less invasive form of fertility treatment often used when timed intercourse has not been successful. It involves “washing” a semen sample from a male partner or sperm donor and delivering a sample of highly concentrated, healthy sperm beyond the cervix and into the uterus around the time of ovulation. It is sometimes used in conjunction with fertility drugs and extensive cycle monitoring to ensure ovulation occurs around the time of ovulation.
Ovulation Prediction Kits (OPKs) are often an essential part of the IUI cycle. They help a woman monitor hormone surges which signal she may be ready for the insemination to take place at her fertility clinic. Blood hormone levels and egg follicle growth (via transvaginal ultrasound) are also tracked from the beginning of the cycle to accurately predict ovulation.
Once your fertility doctor determines that ovulation is near, he or she may order an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to boost egg maturation and cue ovulation to occur. The semen sample is then prepared and administered via a syringe with a long catheter attached. This bypasses the cervix and ensures sperm will be awaiting the egg as it travels out of the fallopian tube and into the uterus. Sperm washing is essential as unwashed semen will cause the uterus to contract and reject the sperm.
After the insemination, you will lie on the examination table for 10-30 minutes with your pelvis flat or slightly elevated. Studies have shown increased pregnancy rates in those who followed this step.
Who is a candidate for IUI?
The best candidates for IUI are those under the age of 35 with open fallopian tubes and a healthy uterus. Typically, IUI is used in instances of ovulation disorders, mild male factor infertility, or otherwise healthy women experiencing difficulty trying to conceive.
IUI is also offered to same-sex lesbian couples, with donor sperm, to help them achieve pregnancy safely. At-home insemination kits are often marketed to lesbian couples, but they do not come with the same extensive monitoring by a trained fertility doctor as an IUI cycle. Fertility workups by a fertility doctor are important to check hormone levels, ovarian reserve, and the ability for the uterus to sustain a pregnancy. This is an important consideration when deciding which female partner will undergo treatment and carry the pregnancy.