One of the oldest infertility treatments, methods of artificial insemination have constantly been improved since its introduction in the 1900s. The name itself has been updated to intrauterine insemination or IUI. This treatment is good for couples with unexplained infertility, women with cervical mucus problems, or men with some sperm deficiencies.
The Simple Way
Before the insemination process takes place, it’s a good idea for you to be examined to make sure there are no structural problems like a blockage, infections or a hormonal imbalance that could affect your ability to ovulate. Some women may also take ovulation-stimulating medications, although this is not necessary for all women.
Insemination occurs about 24 to 36 hours after the LH surge is detected. For women using fertility medications, insemination will likely take place shortly after you receive an hCG injection to help start ovulation. Your partner will need to provide a semen sample the day insemination is to take place.
Before insemination occurs, the semen sample is first prepared through a process known as "washing." Washing allows your doctor to separate the most motile sperm and put high concentrations together in small volumes. This process also helps to eliminate any potentially dangerous toxins found in your partner’s sperm.
If your partner’s sperm count is too low, you can also use a sperm donor. In these instances, the sperm will be sent to your doctor’s office already prepared for insemination by the sperm bank. Once the sperm is ready, a catheter (a small tube) will be used to place the sperm directly into your uterus.
The actual insemination procedure doesn’t take more than an hour and requires no anesthesia. However, women using ovulation-stimulating medications will require close monitoring in the week or two leading up to insemination. Through regular blood tests and ultrasounds, your doctor will be able to monitor the maturation of your egg follicles.
IUI Success Rates
Success with IUI tends to vary from person to person and is dependent upon a variety of factors including a woman’s age, quality of her partner’s sperm, and past history of pregnancy. Additionally, women who use fertility drugs have a better chance of getting pregnant than those women who don’t use any fertility medications. On average, though, IUI success rates range between 5% and 25%.
Women who use fertility medications may also find that they have an increased chance of a multiple pregnancy. Since these drugs encourage more than one egg to mature every month, it is not unusual for a woman to conceive twins or possibly more when combined with IUI.
Pros and Cons
Many couples prefer using this infertility treatment to ART. Not only is the procedure much simpler than ART methods, such as IVF, but it is also cheaper. Prices average between $300 and $700 per cycle but can be more depending on where you live and where you receive treatment. Additionally, using a sperm donor can increase the price.
Getting the timing right is one of the keys to making this treatment effective. Inseminating too early or too late can prevent fertilization from taking place. Also, IUI may not be as reliable as some other fertility treatments. Many couples try for three, four or even more cycles before achieving a pregnancy or deciding to try something else.
However, techniques are always improving and some new studies have suggested that IUI may be just as effective as IVF. Often, IUI is recommended as the first course of action for infertile couples. There are also fewer risks to a woman’s health associated with IUI.