Understanding What An IUI Is
When people hear the phrase fertility treatment, the first concept that often comes to mind is usually in vitro fertilization (IVF). This popular method fertilizes an egg outside of a woman’s body and then reinserts the eggs into the uterus for implantation. Ideally, the result is a successful pregnancy. IVF isn’t the only fertility option that a woman can rely on to become pregnant. Another option known as intrauterine insemination (IUI) can help women reach the goal of conception.
What is IUI?
IUI is considered a form of artificial insemination. IUI is different from IVF because, during intrauterine insemination, a fertility specialist directly inserts sperm into a woman's uterus through a catheter during the ovulation window. The procedure may be performed for a variety of reasons which can include:
- The use of donor sperm
- Low sperm motility in a male partner
- A woman with endometriosis
- Cervical abnormalities
- Semen allergy
- Problems with ovulation
How does IUI differ from traditional pregnancies?
The primary difference between an IUI and a traditional pregnancy is how conception occurs. In a traditional pregnancy, intercourse is the catalyst for an egg being fertilized by sperm. Sperm swim from the vagina through the cervix and into the uterus before continuing to the fallopian tubes. In an IUI pregnancy, the distance a sperm must swim is reduced by directly being inserted into a woman's vagina. After conception, the two pregnancies will continue as normal.
Are there risks with an IUI pregnancy?
There are no serious risks associated with an IUI pregnancy. However, common side effects can include developing an infection after having the procedure or experiencing spotting from the process of having the catheter inserted in the uterus. Another common side effect depends on whether a woman is taking fertility medications that help to induce ovulation. For women taking medications, the risk of multiple births is higher. As a result, women with multiple births are at higher risk for experiencing early labor or having babies with a lower birth weight.
How long is the procedure?
An IUI procedure is fairly quick. Often the procedure can be completed in a doctor's office or clinic, and the entire visit takes between 15-30 minutes to complete. The insemination takes no more than a minute or two. Usually, no medication is needed prior. For couples opting for IUI, the man will usually provide a semen sample that will be washed and concentrated before the exam, which can improve conception outcomes. After the sperm is inserted, the woman usually stays reclined for 10-30 minutes before being released to go home. Some clinics will perform a second procedure the following day to increase the chances of successfully conceiving.
Is IUI the right choice?
IUI is one of many fertility treatment options available to women and couples that want to conceive but have struggled to do so naturally. Aside from the conception process and risks associated with combining the procedure with fertility medications, an IUI pregnancy is virtually indistinguishable from a traditional pregnancy. While success rates can vary based on age and underlying fertility issues, IUI is considered a great relatively non-invasive way to help people improve the chances of successfully conceiving. For more information, speak with a fertility specialist.