What is Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)?
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a fertility procedure that increases the chances of pregnancy. A concentrated sample of sperm from a partner or a donor is carefully placed in the uterus during ovulation (when the patient is releasing an egg). The IUI procedure can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic.
What is the difference between IUI and IVF?
The differences between an IUI and an IVF include:
- Sperm and egg come together inside the body
- Sperm placed in the uterus swim up the fallopian tube toward the egg. If successful, the egg is fertilized.
- IUI can be done with or without medications that stimulate egg production
- The procedure is simpler and less costly than in vitro fertilization (IVF)
- The patient must take injectable medication to stimulate the ovaries to produce several eggs
- The eggs are removed and combined with sperm in the laboratory
- Sperm fertilizes the eggs, resulting in embryos
- One or more embryos are transferred to the uterus
Why is IUI used?
The IUI procedure is commonly used for:
- Unexplained infertility occurs when a couple are healthy, and testing does not reveal any causes of infertility
- Conception with donated sperm for single people or LGBTQ+ families wishing to conceive; or to avoid a genetic disease that could be passed down through the male partner
- Low sperm counts, poor motility, and other issues with sperm that can prevent natural fertilization. Placing concentrated sperm directly into the uterus increases the odds of success.
- Issues with ovulation, such as not ovulating regularly
Preparing for IUI
You and your doctor will decide the best strategy for you to produce one or more eggs. Some patients will have IUI after they ovulate naturally. Others will take oral or injected medications to stimulate egg production (superovulation treatment).
- Monitoring for ovulation — Blood tests and ultrasounds are performed for two weeks to monitor for ovulation
- Ovulation trigger — You may have an injection of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) to trigger the ovary to release the egg. This allows for precise timing of the IUI procedure, which is performed 24 to 36 hours after ovulation.
- Preparing the semen sample — On the day of the IUI procedure, the male partner or donor will provide a semen sample. The sample is washed, and active sperm are separated from the rest of the sample. Frozen donor sperm may also be used. It will be thawed and prepared on the day of the procedure.
IUI Procedure Step-by-Step
The IUI process takes only a few minutes and requires no anesthesia or pain medication. For this procedure:
- Similar to when you have a Pap smear, the doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina and gently open it to provide a view of your cervix
- The doctor then threads a soft, thin plastic tube (catheter) through your cervix
- A syringe will be used to push the sperm sample through the catheter and into your uterus
- The doctor removes the catheter and the speculum
After the IUI procedure, you will remain lying down for a short time, and then you can dress and go about your daily activities. You may experience cramping (like menstrual cramps) and light spotting for a day or two.
Risks and Side Effects of IUI
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a safe procedure, and NewYork-Presbyterian physicians take measures to minimize the few risks. There is a slight risk of infection or of puncturing the uterus. There also is a risk of more than one egg being fertilized, resulting in twins or triplets. Pregnancy with multiple fetuses poses health risks for both the mother and the babies.
Two weeks after IUI, you will take a home pregnancy test to determine if you are pregnant. Do not rely on an at-home test before two weeks—testing too soon does not give an accurate result. If IUI is successful, NewYork-Presbyterian doctors can continue to care for you throughout your pregnancy. Many people who do not become pregnant with their first IUI try the procedure again. IUI is a less invasive of fertility treatment option when compared to IVF.
Get Intrauterine Insemination at NewYork-Presbyterian
NewYork-Presbyterian has decades of experience providing individualized care to diagnose and treat fertility issues in a comprehensive and state-of-the-art setting. Our experts can guide you through the process of choosing the fertility treatment that is most appropriate and most cost-effective for you. The cost of IUI depends on various factors, including the reasons for treatment, preliminary testing, and the details of preparing for the procedure.
Our medical teams offer comprehensive women’s health care, including psychological support services to help patients cope with the stress accompanying fertility treatment.