This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Gary Levy, Reproductive Endocrinologist specializing in the treatment of fertility and complex reproductive disorders with Fertility Cloud.
Ever hear the term IUI and wonder, what is that? You may have heard about it because you’re researching options for yourself, a friend or a loved one. And if you’re in a place where you’re struggling to conceive, my heart goes out to you! It’s a club no one wants to be a member of.
So what in the world is an IUI?
IUI is short for intrauterine insemination. And what the heck is that? It is a form of artificial insemination. “Artificial” insemination is quite simply any way of trying to get pregnant that is not the traditional male/female sex way.
IUI is a type of insemination that:
- Is done in a doctor’s office.
- Uses “washed” sperm.
- Often but not always involves medications or hormone shots.
- Bypasses the cervix
- And sperm is placed directly inside the uterus.
This is NOT recommended to be done outside of a doctor's office without proper tools or guidance. That is mainly because if you place too much sperm directly into the uterus you can experience some painful consequences.
So, in order to do an IUI, your doctor will “wash” the sperm sample with some special equipment to eliminate supporting cells and slower sperm, and to maximize the best available sperm.
When men ejaculate a sperm sample it’s about 2 to 5 milliliters. By processing the sperm and eliminating the semen, your doctor will cut the sample down to about .5ml in order to make it tolerable for your uterus.
When you have intercourse your cervix, located inside your vagina, naturally “washes” the sperm on their journey to the uterus.
From the uterus the sperm then travel further into the Fallopian tubes in hopes of meeting an egg and making a baby. With IUI you eliminate the step of having the sperm travel through the cervix and wash the sperm so that the best ones make the transfer.
In preparation for your IUI procedure, your doctor will most likely do a run up of tests on you and your partner, or your donor’s sperm. This will help determine the most appropriate treatment course. The doctor may use blood tests and vaginal ultrasounds to monitor your cycle and confirm ovulation. They may even prescribe medications and have you use ovulation predictor kits at home.
During the actual procedure, your doctor fills a vial with “washed” sperm and then attaches it to a long flexible tube. They then take that long tube and put it into your cervix and deposit the sperm sample inside your uterus.
All in all, the procedure is quite fast. You may have some discomfort and cramping, possibly light spotting, but it should not be too bad, and it is atypical to experience any pain.
An IUI procedure can vary in cost depending on your insurance but costs anywhere between $400 and $1500 per attempt.
And keep in mind, IUI is not to be confused with ICI or IVF. If you’re getting confused on what is what, take a look at this article here explaining the differences.
Does an IUI work every time?
Unfortunately, an IUI just like all forms of insemination, be it through intercourse, home insemination, or IVF, does not work every time. Sadly, no method does! Depending on the underlying cause of your subfertility, an IUI can take several attempts and your doctor will guide you on how many IUIs they recommend for you. A typical success rate is anywhere between 10-20% per month.
Are there alternatives to an IUI?
There are many people who simply need an alternative method to inseminate and find themselves looking into intrauterine insemination. If you’re one of those folks, there may be some potential options you can consider like home insemination, doctor provided ICI, and potentially you may even be a better candidate for IVF.
Either way, no matter how you find your sweet little one, we are rooting for you and happy to help support you on your journey. Feel free to reach out, we love hearing from our community. Until then, fingers crossed you get that big fat positive!