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Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): A Comprehensive Guide

The first documented case of a human baby being born via intrauterine insemination (IUI) occurred during the 1770s in London. Today, IUI has become one of the most common forms of assisted reproductive technology (ART) and is often the first line of treatment for many couples and individuals on their path to parenthood.

Before starting your fertility journey, it’s important to learn as much as possible about how IUI works, what makes a good candidate, and the specific statistics on the success rate. This knowledge can help you navigate your journey and realize your parenthood dream. Join The Prelude Network® as we demystify the IUI process and illuminate the path to conception.

What is IUI: How Does it Work?

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a type of artificial insemination that involves washing and concentrating sperm and inserting it directly into the uterus using a small catheter during ovulation. The goal of IUI is to increase the number of healthy sperm that reach the fallopian tubes during the most fertile period of an ovulation cycle to improve the chances of pregnancy.

When Is IUI Recommended?

For many aspiring parents, IUI is often the first type of fertility treatment that is recommended. IUI may be recommended for a wide range of fertility and family-building obstacles, including:

  • Endometriosis
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Using a donated sperm
  • Unexplained infertility
  • Mild male factor infertility
  • Cervical factor infertility

Understanding The IUI Procedure, Step By Step

1. Ovulation Monitoring

Ovulation monitoring involves tracking your menstrual cycle to plan the right time of the month for IUI. During this initial step, blood tests are taken to determine hormone levels, and other tests – such as ovulation predictor tests and ultrasounds – may be performed.

2. Ovulation Stimulation

In many cases, IUI is performed in conjunction with ovulation stimulation, which involves using medications. This can include oral medications, such as clomiphene citrate (Clomid® or Serophene®), or injections, such as human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).

3. Sperm Collection and Preparation

A semen sample is provided by either a male partner or a sperm donor. The semen sample is typically produced through masturbation in a sterile environment. Once collected, the ejaculate is specially prepared by separating the strongest sperm cells from the seminal fluids. If using frozen sperm from either a male partner or a sperm donor, the sperm will be carefully thawed and prepared for insemination.

4. Insemination

Insemination is a relatively simple and painless step that’s typically performed in the fertility clinic. This step involves inserting a thin, flexible catheter through the vagina and depositing the prepared sperm into the uterus.

5. Pregnancy Test

​​A pregnancy test is conducted approximately two weeks after the IUI procedure is performed. A positive test means fertilization was successful and the resulting embryo has successfully implanted into the uterine wall.

Benefits and Risks of IUI

There are several benefits of IUI, including:

  • Less invasive than other fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Less expensive
  • Allows for a natural conception process
  • Effective for male factor infertility 
  • Effective for bypassing cervical issues

While IUI is a relatively safe and simple procedure, there are a few mild complications that can occur, including:

  • A slight risk of infection
  • Spotting from the catheter placement
  • If using ovulation-stimulating medications, multiple pregnancy

IUI Success Rate Factors

IUI success rates vary from person to person. Known factors that can affect your chances of success with IUI include:

  • Age – women under the age of 35 generally have higher IUI success rates
  • The cause of infertility – several types of infertility, including cervical issues, unexplained infertility, and mild male factor infertility, have a higher success rate than other underlying causes
  • The use of ovulation stimulation
  • Sperm quality – higher sperm counts and normal sperm motility are linked with better IUI success rates 
  • Lifestyle factors – good lifestyle choices, such as eating healthy, not smoking, not drinking alcohol, and exercising, can positively impact the success rate of IUI

Connect With a Prelude Clinic for IUI

Regardless of where you are on your fertility care journey, The Prelude Network® is here to support you and help you realize your family planning dreams. Our network of clinics provides you with the guidance and advanced fertility care you need throughout your IUI journey. Call a Prelude fertility clinic today to learn how to get started.