What Is Intrauterine Insemination? 3 Things To Know

When you're trying to conceive, sometimes you need a little help. The days of artificial insemination have evolved and women today have a lot more choices, like intrauterine insemination, or IUI. But exactly what is intrauterine insemination? OK, the long and the short of it is that intrauterine insemination is a fertility treatment that's minimally invasive and less costly than in vitro fertilization (IVF). It's used for several key reasons. In particular, it's used in cases of sluggish, or slow moving sperm, donor sperm, and unexplained infertility, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Additionally, Resolve, The National Infertility Association noted that IUI is ideal for women who find sex painful or undesirable, but still want to have a live birth.

"Sperm analysis is pretty important [and is] the first part of the discussion," fertility specialist Dr. Jane Frederick, tells me, noting that learned that 40 percent of her patients have a male factor problem. Enter IUI. Think of IUI as a matchmaker, helping the sperm meet the egg so successful conception can occur. More literally, IUI is a process that delivers the sperm to the egg in your uterus. According to The National Infertility Association, the most challenging thing about IUI is getting the timing right. In other words, you want to make sure there's an egg there waiting for the sperm. To this end, you might want to consider an injection of hCG (ovidrel, novarel, profasi, pregynl) all hormones to trigger ovulation and the release of an egg. This way, doctors can pinpoint exactly when to perform IUI. Of course, this is decision that you should make with your fertility specialist. So, now that you've got the lowdown on IUI, let me answer a couple basic questions about the procedure.


How Does IUI Work?

To prepare for IUI, think about the procedure as a little more involved than your annual pap smear. It's not particularly painful, but does involve a vaginal catheter. Just like your pap smear, your doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina to see the cervix. The cervix is then swabbed clean and the vaginal catheter is inserted. You're going to feel pressure from this bad boy. It's not the most comfortable feeling, but it's not painful per se. Summon all your zen powers and try to relax your body as much as you can. Clenching your muscles, as you can imagine, only makes the feeling worse.

OK, now that the catheter is in place in your cervical canal, up it goes into the uterus, and the semen is dropped in through a syringe (you don't feel this; the syringe is tapping into the catheter). You might feel some cramps, but that's about the extent of your IUI process.


What's The Success Rate Of IUI?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, the success rate of IUI is 20 percent per cycle. If this sounds low, it's because other factors (like a ovulation) are involved. So, the success rate increases when you add fertility drugs. Then again, the fertility drugs have to be effective. Age is another variable. As you can see, a lot's going on here.


What Are The Risks Of IUI?

There aren't many risks associated with IUI, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Good news, right? This is why IUI is cheaper (running you $350 to $865 per cycle, out-of-pocket) than more invasive fertility treatments. There is a small risk of infection after IUI, as in any medical procedure.

If you think IUI is for you, talk to your doctor. It may even be a fertility treatment that's covered by your insurance, so be sure to check that out as well.