Intrauterine insemination can be performed as a fertility treatment method and is typically done during ovulation. It may be done in conjunction with oral fertility drugs or injectable ovulation-stimulating drugs.
What is intrauterine insemination?
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a type of artificial insemination in which sperm is used to fertilize an egg either from a sperm donor or from your partner.
With natural conception, sperm must travel from your vagina through your cervix, into your uterus, and to your fallopian tubes. Only 5% of all sperm enter your uterus through your vagina. Your ovary releases an egg, which travels to your fallopian tube. This is where the sperm and egg meet, resulting in fertilization.
During IUI, sperm is collected, purified, and concentrated to leave only high-quality sperm. Since the sperm is directly injected with a catheter into your uterus, it is closer to your fallopian tubes, which decreases the time it takes for the sperm to reach the egg. This increases your chance of becoming pregnant.
Why is artificial insemination done?
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is often done for people experiencing fertility problems, same-sex couples, or women who want to become pregnant on their own with the help of a sperm donor. People may opt for IUI in the following cases:
- Unexplained infertility: This occurs when doctors are unable to determine the cause of infertility.
- Low sperm count: Treatment for infertility often involves a semen analysis, which may indicate that your partner’s sperm are few in number, weak, shaped strangely, small, fragile, or slow. IUI can help with these issues because only quality sperm is chosen and used.
- Erection or ejaculation problems: IUI may be recommended if your partner cannot ejaculate or maintain an erection.
- Semen allergy: In rare cases, people can become allergic to the sperm of their partner, causing vaginal burning, swelling, and redness. IUI can help because sperm washing removes the proteins that cause the allergy.
- Cervical mucus problems: If your cervical mucus is too thick, sperm may struggle to swim through the vagina to the uterus to the fallopian tubes. With IUI, sperm travels directly to your uterus without having to pass through your cervix.
How is sperm collected for insemination?
There are various ways sperm is collected for intrauterine insemination.
In most cases, the man masturbates into a sterile cup provided by the doctor's office or an andrology laboratory.
Sperm can also be collected during intercourse using a unique condom supplied by a doctor. If a man suffers retrograde ejaculation, the sperm can be extracted from his urine.
Men who have erection or ejaculation problems and those who have had spinal cord injuries may benefit from vibratory stimulation or electroejaculation to produce a sperm sample:
- Vibrational stimulation is routinely practiced in an office setting using a handheld vibrating device.
- Electroejaculation uses electrical stimulation to produce a sperm sample.
What happens when you are inseminated?
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is carried out just before the woman's ovulation. The IUI procedure is simple and relatively fast once the semen sample is ready.
The semen sample is "washed" in the lab to concentrate the sperm and separate it from the seminal fluid, which can cause severe cramping in women. This procedure may take up to 2 hours to complete.
You will be asked to lie down on an examination table. Your doctor will examine your cervix using a speculum inserted into your vagina. A catheter (a tiny tube) is inserted through your cervix and used to gradually inject the washed semen sample into your uterus.
Although the procedure is usually painless, some women report cramping and spotting for 1-2 days following the IUI.
How successful is intrauterine insemination?
With IUI, there is a 10% chance of pregnancy per cycle. In other words, 10 out of every 100 women who use one cycle of donor sperm will get pregnant. But this also implies that for most couples to fully benefit from this procedure, 4-6 insemination sessions may be necessary.
What are the risks of intrauterine insemination?
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) poses fewer risks than other more invasive fertility procedures, such as in vitro fertilization.
However, IUI has some risks, which include:
- Multiple births: If you take fertility medications, you may release more than one egg. This increases your likelihood of having twins, triplets, or more. Premature labor and low birth weight are risks that are heightened with multiple pregnancies.
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS): This is an uncommon adverse reaction brought on by excessive usage of reproductive drugs. Your ovaries become sore and enlarged as a result of OHSS.
- Infection: Bacteria in the vagina that are present during IUI can spread to the uterus during the insemination procedure, resulting in infections.
- Spotting: The procedure may result in minor vaginal bleeding.
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