If you have been struggling with infertility, your fertility specialist may recommend IUI treatments. IUI, otherwise known as intrauterine insemination, or artificial insemination (AI), is one of the simplest forms of infertility treatments available and is less complex than the average in vitro fertilization process. IUI is typically tried before any other types of fertility treatments including assisted reproductive technologies and IVF. Here’s a close look at how IUI works, and why you may be a good candidate for this fertility treatment:
How Intrauterine Insemination Works
During the intrauterine insemination procedure, sperm are released into the uterus at the time of ovulation. This process promotes the natural fertilization process, and the woman may need to take certain drugs or medications to artificially trigger ovulation.
Before the sperm can be placed in the woman’s uterus, it must be prepared under a ‘sperm wash’ process. In order for the IUI procedure to work, the sperm must be separated from the seminal fluid because seminal fluid contains a significant amount of problematic chemicals called prostaglandins. Once the semen is collected, it is left to sit and liquefy, and then mixed with a chemical solution to separate it from the seminal fluid. The resulting compound is now ready for the IUI procedure.
The IUI Procedure
In order for the intrauterine insemination process to work, the woman must have released a certain number of eggs. The sperm is then placed directly into the uterus using a thin tube, and the woman must wait for the natural fertilization process to occur. The IUI procedure is relatively painless, but may cause some cramping and discomfort for a few hours after the treatment. The entire process takes only a couple of minutes, but the appointment at the fertility clinic can take up to an hour or more.
Success with IUI Fertility Treatments
A number of factors come into play to determine how successful the IUI procedure may be. Common obstacles to becoming pregnant include ovarian dysfunction, fallopian tube blockages, pelvic adhesions and low egg counts. Women who produce low-quality eggs may also find it difficult to become pregnant.
The success of IUI fertility treatments depends largely on the timing of the procedure. The sperm must be inseminated on the same day as ovulation, so the woman may need to undergo the IUI treatment several times over the course of a few months in order for it to work. Ideally, an IUI is performed within six hours either side of ovulation. If the woman is having hCG injections to stimulate ovulation, the IUI procedure may be performed between 24 and 48 hours later. It’s important to remember that the egg is only healthy enough to support the fertilization process for about 24 hours after it is released.
In some cases, having intercourse in addition to IUI treatments can increase the total amount of sperm in the uterus which in turn increases the chance for pregnancy.
Learn more about fertility treatments in our information guide, or consult with a fertility specialist in your area to find out if you may be a good candidate for the IUI procedure.